Let’s Talk About Sensitivity

“Our generation is too sensitive.”

“These snowflakes are just waiting to get offended.”

A common complaint, but it seems as if the sensitivity epidemic that characterizes our generation has only recently reached its worst stage. Why the sudden boom in the hypersensitive and easily-offended club?

The most basic reason would be that we, as a society, have progressed from the days of silent toleration of subtle discrimination. No longer are we afraid to tackle microaggressions, cultural appropriation, and sneaky sexist language. After all, the dictionary defines sensitivity as “the quality of being aware of and understanding the feelings of other people.”

This recent development reflects our growth, our willingness to act emotionally mature towards others’ struggles. Together, we have learned that lighthearted slurs are slurs nevertheless and that they signify much more than their outwardly connotations. For example, the racial slur ch*nk isn’t just a word or joke— it’s a term that embodies the condescending stares, the mocking “ni-haos,” and the pain of living in a discriminatory society. Sensitivity is precisely what has fueled the realization that such subtle prejudices embedded in language and culture can cause pain that is just as tangible and detrimental as the pain we feel from flagrant exclusion. Thanks to sensitivity, people are  beginning to challenge conversational slurs that were brushed off as “just jokes” in the past. If it is molding our culture to be more aware of inconspicuous marginalization, is it truly fair to argue that being sensitive is all that bad?

Given the miracles that sensitivity has gifted us with, the fact that this quality is being characterized as irrational hyperbolic response is concerning, to say the least. The stigmatization of sensitivity often results in minorities keeping their insecurities to themselves in fear that they will be viewed as thin-skinned. Yes, this shuts down open dialogue.

But more importantly, it causes minorities to feel guilty about events that genuinely bother them. These insecurities are not merely thoughts from an overly sensitive mind; they are rooted in countless years of institutionalized inequality. It is inconsiderate to ridicule these sentiments because it ignores centuries of discrimination, both implicit and explicit, that has led minorities to react against a minute remark. When we pretend that we are unaffected by comments that we have every right to be upset about, we normalize casual injustice a habit that is toxic to the progression and psychology of the minority community.

One’s level of sensitivity should not be a weakness or an “annoying aspect” about one’s self. Everyone has different tolerance levels and feels uncomfortable at different points: what one person thinks is hysterical may offend another’s entire being. My friend’s acceptance of a minor sexist joke does not delegitimize my anger towards it. Minorities have the right to unapologetically express their thoughts, because it is they who have been silenced, not the oppressors.

This is not to say that the only voices that matter are those of marginalized groups. However, it is logical for their voices to carry the most weight in our conversations about social justice, as no other group will be able to understand the experience of first-handedly toiling through a system designed to keep them at the bottom. Their thoughts are valid.

cultural approp
Image: Medium

“We can’t apply sensitive issues like cultural appropriation to every single minor incident that comes up. There’s no reason why an innocent seven-year-old child dressed up like Moana for Halloween should be bashed for disrespecting islander culture.” – Sujin Park (‘20)

Of course, there is a line where it becomes blatantly unreasonable to get offended, like accusing a child of cultural appropriation for wearing a Disney costume. But the line is blurry, and also a slippery slope. Once we start to support a culture that humiliates these kinds of actions, it quickly spreads to the point where we equate every kind of sensitivityeven the authentic kindswith irrationality. It acts as a hurdle that derails us from the path of progressa path we have only just begun to traverse after centuries of tireless fighting. Where we should draw the line is something I alone cannot definitively answer, but as we navigate through the boundaries, let us remember that considerate discussion, not ridicule, is the way to go.

When we feel uncomfortable, we must be able to call it out without the worry of ruining the atmosphere or being a debbie downer. Sometimes, sensitive snowflakes aren’t being childish or immature, but rather human beings with emotions that are simply a little more fragile than normal.

– Janie Do (‘20)

Featured Image: Hannah Kim (’19)

Between the World and Me: Through the Eyes of an Asian Teen

In his ground-breaking novel, Coates tackles the struggle of African Americans through letters to his son. But what does this all mean for an Asian teenager?

“ You are the bearer of a body more fragile than any other in this country.”

4e07bf4c-76aa-11e5-9b6f-703717d3539c-780x522
(seattletimes.com)

These were the words of Ta-Nehisi Coates to his son in his novel Between the World and Me. In his epistolary memoir, Coates, an American author and journalist, attempts to explain to his son about his own fear and insecurities on this “terrible and beautiful world.” As a man who faced discrimination at a young age, Coates traces his own experience and intertwines it with examples today to touch on one of the most sensitive and grave issues of America today: the lives of African Americans.

I am a Korean Australian teenage girl who has fortunately experienced little racism. The most serious encounter being only when three Australian boys yelled at me “die Chinese girl! Die” as I was entering my mom’s car. Worse, I have seldom witnessed racism in the lives of Blacks. For me, my connection with them was through texts: the countless U.S. history textbooks that fill the chapters with the Civil War, the lengthy essays and speeches in AP Lang prompts that inundate students with topics on slavery and equality, the limitless passages in the SAT that continuously highlight the Black struggle. My relationship with racism was felt inauthentically. They never felt tangible.

When you enter Mr. Brondel’s class and see the screen with the word “slavery”; when you flip over to the essay prompt as Mr. v starts the timer; when you open the SAT package and the proctor says “start the reading section”; you groan and sigh to find that the topic is on African Americans again. Even I as someone who tries to appreciate texts, it is at times frustrating to read about a topic that I have so little relation to.

However, Coates’ use of rich language drew me in to take a peek at their lives. The use of ‘body’ as a fragile belonging of African Americans elucidates what it means to live in fear. For us, the body is just an identity that we own. But for Coates, it is a precarious, delicate part of their lives that could be broken, stolen, or even abused: a part of his son’s life that is prone to be vulnerable. Coates, by doing so, makes such struggle real; the multitude of textbooks, prompts, passages in my shelf slowly took form into life. For once, the words and feelings started to make sense.

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(npr.org)

Some of my fellow peers, on the other hand, may argue the contrary. I asked my friend the other day whether or not she could empathize with the struggle of African Americans. She told me that she did because she was once an Asian in a country of White. Sure, perhaps she felt excluded from the majority. Sure, she may feel as if she was marginalized. But as I was reading Between the World and Me, I realized how her thought, which many other teenagers around me may agree, is false. The African American’s fight for equality is so unique and ingrained in such complex heritage that it cannot be generalized to mere ‘racism’ or ‘discrimination.’ No matter how much I face marginalization or discrimination, I can never fully understand, empathize, or feel their pain and fear. Their experience and story are distinctive; it isn’t something we can completely understand.

But by no means am I saying that we should all now relinquish our fight for equality just because we cannot wholly feel their experience. I am not in any way pitying their lives or degrading ourselves. I am just arguing the need to realize that the struggle of African Americans can never be completely felt by those who say that they were merely excluded in a society. I do not know what the solution is to gaining equality for all race and peoples. But what I do know is that Coates has shown me that the struggles are more profound, more complex, more humane than just a chapter in a textbook or a passage on an exam. And for that, I want to thank Coates for showing me a glimpse of their lives and for making my connection to them more real.

– Sarah Se-Jung Oh (’19)

Featured Image: http://www.boredtodeathbookclub.com/2015/12/10/between-the-world-and-me-ta-nehisi-coates/

Sources:

https://www.seattletimes.com/entertainment/books/qa-with-ta-nehisi-coates-author-of-between-the-world-and-me/

https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2015/07/10/421469553/ta-nehisi-coates-looks-at-the-physical-toll-of-being-black-in-america

A Quiet Feminist?

Is there even such thing called “quiet feminist? What constitutes a feminist today?

Wearing a long pebble gray dress with a white blazer, I stood in front of the UN flag and proudly represented the woman that I admired ever since I read her books in the local library: Eleanor Roosevelt. A woman of great courage and power, Roosevelt’s influence in the fight for women’s rights profoundly impacted me as I was engrossed by the notion of feminism. Even till this day, her famous quote on how “a woman is like a tea bag – you never know how strong she is until you put her in hot water” reverberates in me. After representing her in my old school’s convention, I unknowingly seemed to be known as the fan girl of feminism at such a young age of 12.

Yet, I never had a conversation with someone on the topic; feminism always came to me in a form of research, facts, and numbers, never as a social issue. It was something that I knew I was interested in on a surface level, but it never came to me in a form of passion, as a deep-level thought.

As time passed, my interest in women’s rights drifted away from my mind as I came into concern with my introverted personality in an extroverted society. I began to research on what introversion was and what made it such an issue today. Through reading and watching videos, I discovered how I should praise my quiet personality as it yields valuable gifts and talents.

This school year, however, I joined Social Justice League, a club at school that advocates for social justice, in an effort to rekindle my temporary interest in women’s rights and perhaps deepen it. I wanted to take the opportunity to find myself back in the shoes of Roosevelt, explaining to people the great role I took in women’s rights. I hoped to make sense of the topic, to make it more tangible.

During the discussions we had in club regarding various issues on gender inequality such as how religion and cultural norms play in the issue, I was able to dissect feminism into pieces and have a better grasp on the complexities and layers of feminism. While discussing on what 21st century ideas on what feminism is, I encountered a dilemma.

Most students who call themselves ‘feminists’ are loud, confident, and aggressive, leaning towards to the extroverted side of the spectrum. They tend to show their bolder side by voicing their opinions on feminism. Even in social media, people believe that some of the most popular modern feminists are those who publicly assert their stances like Hillary Clinton and Emma Watson. Despite how incredible they are, we sometimes ignore those who express their passion in terms of words such as Warsan Shire, a Somali poet, and activist. I found myself gearing more towards the latter since I am not the most aggressive and expressive person in school. Yet, I always felt that I had to give up either one of my passions—introversion or feminism—as they often seemed to be conflicting in my opinion. So the question came to me: am I truly a feminist?

 

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(wordpress.com)

My answer came to me when I was researching on historical feminists that resonated with me.  Ida Tarbell, a female journalist who played a key role in eradicating the Standard Oil Company’s monopoly, was one that I embarked on to research. I discovered how Tarbell seems to be depicted as someone who has no ties with women’s rights. To some extent, it is true- many claim that she was against the women’s suffrage movement during the 1900s and believed that women should be subservient to men. Nevertheless, I found through research that although she never verbally claimed that she was a feminist, her work of revealing the corruptness of the Oil Company was an act of advocating for women, as most journalists during the period never attempted to risk an investigative topic this risky. I also learned that Eleanor Roosevelt, the woman that I so dearly loved, was an introvert herself yet still fought for women’s rights by writing daily on a column in women’s issues such as gender wage gaps and women in war.

 

 

Like the two, women don’t always have to possess masculine traits in order to be called feminists. We don’t have to boldly assert our opinions just because that shows our passion for feminism. Instead, we can find our own way of expressing what feminism is.

 

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(huffingtonpost.com)

 

By researching on Tarbell and Roosevelt and discussing in Social Justice League, I found myself back into the grey dress I wore four years ago, taking my stand and representing Roosevelt. And I asked myself again: Am I a feminist?

Yes. I am a feminist—a quiet yet passionate one.

—Sarah Se-Jung Oh (’19)

Lounge with Leona: Controversial KIS Bus Policy

Sit down, take a chill pill, and relax for this week’s edition of Lounge with Leona; is the KIS bus policy fair?

Ever since I came to KIS, which was back in 2011, I have been riding the school bus to and back from school. Before I came to KIS, I lived a five minute walk away from my school so I basically paid nothing for transportation fees. Hence why it shocked my parents when they first saw how expensive it was to ride the school bus (you would think the fee is included within the tuition since it is insanely high-priced). Now, I’m sure the fees have changed (upwards) in comparison to six years ago, but let’s do some simple arithmetics here. The bus fee for the school year of 2016~2017 is 2,500,000 KRW. That multiplied by 6 is 15,000,000 KRW, which is the money my parents have been paying in order for me to ride the school bus for the past six years.

I could whine all day and night about this cost, but as it is a price all bus riders pay at KIS, complaining would pretty much get me nowhere. Besides, without the school bus, I have no other way of getting to school (as no sane taxi driver wants to drive us up the hill KIS is located on because of the morning traffic that takes ages to escape). In fact, I’m not even here to complain about this bizarre pricing. Rather, I’m here to question the fairness of the KIS bus policy.

Under the “Application for School Bus Service” google form found on the KIS homepage, the bus rules which “all students need to adhere to” can be found. Section B component i clearly states, “students must tag their RFID cards to board the school bus.” As it never explicitly states the specific time period this rule applies (before or after school), I’m going to assume it also includes the times we ride the late bus. According to the busing page found on the KIS homepage, KIS provides four late buses for students who stay at school after 3, due to drama practices, sports practices, and so on. However, recently, I’ve been noticing the after school bus that goes to Sunae, Jeongja, and Migeum that I always tend to ride frequently end up full. This is most likely because many students live in the area. Students used to have to stand and ride back when I was a middle schooler, but most recently, drivers have simply been bringing out new buses so that the students who couldn’t ride the original bus could still return home.

This got me wondering; would the after school buses truly overflow with students if only the students who were actually allowed to ride the buses rode them? Basically, I’m calling out the students who don’t pay a single won of the 2,500,00 KRW that myself and hundreds of other bus riders do, yet somehow justify themselves riding the after school bus, leaving many of us in situations of inconvenience. Sure, you still “pay” for your ride to school whether it be because you ride your parent’s car or taxi. But if I could get away with just paying for my ride to school instead of a round trip, why should my parents even bother to pay the 2,500,000 KRW? Surely, it would be smarter for me to do just as those who are breaking the rules.

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From the “KIS School Bus Service Information” found on the KIS homepage.

This brings me back to the point made earlier about component i that is frankly, highlighted in red, further establishing that that rule is important. I’m assuming this rule was implemented in the first place so that they could differentiate who is allowed to ride the bus and who isn’t (ie: if you aren’t a registered bus rider, you cannot ride the school bus). At the beginning of the year, I was constantly reminded to tag my ID card when I got on and off my regular bus as well as when I rode the after school bus, and I do admit, that process got tedious and annoying after a while. However, I did get used to getting my ID card out. Yet now, I only find myself getting reminded to tag my ID card when riding my regular transportation bus and not when riding the after school bus. Taking advantage of this, students who do not pay for the bus rides began riding the after school bus again, and bus drivers don’t bother checking whether they’re allowed to or not. Why? Out of laziness? Because they know the students will probably make up some random excuse and still end up getting their way? Honestly, I don’t know. It’s probably a little bit of both.

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PC: Clare Kwon (’18)

As my opinion alone would probably mean nothing to the administrators, I decided to interview other KISians who ride the bus on what they thought about the status quo. I ended up getting quite a range of voices – those who didn’t mind, those who were mildly irritated, and those who were upright furious.

“Personally, I don’t really mind. But I do understand that it’s unfair and honestly it causes clutters pretty often. Especially on the more popular buses like the Jeongja one.” – Amy Choi (‘17)

“I honestly don’t really mind it when people ride the after school bus despite not paying for it. Who knows, maybe they really need that ride and they don’t have any other method to get home. But in the case that there aren’t any seats, I believe that it’s only fair that those who did pay for the bus service should get seats first.” – Erica Lee (‘17)

“To be honest, I would be angry because I’m paying for the bus and they’re just using it for free. But at the same time, I understand when people ride the bus for free after school because…a lot of teams act in groups and it’s so hard when a lot of people can’t ride the bus with them.” – Anonymous

“As a person who pays a whole lot for the bus fee to ride the bus, I honestly think it is unfair when people who don’t pay for the bus still ride the after school bus. Once in awhile is fine, but riding every single day is a different story.” – Anonymous

“I just think it’s really ridiculous that we have to bare having so many people ride our bus[es] when they don’t even pay for it. I understand that the bus rides are very expensive and it honestly isn’t fair for everyone to pay 2,500,000 won to ride a bus that’s probably only a 15 minute ride home, but it’s not fair that some people have to wait for extra buses since so many people are filling our seats when they didn’t even pay a single penny.” – William Lee (‘18)

I also received this interesting opinion that did change my perspective.

“I have mixed emotions about it. On one hand, I don’t really like the thought of my parents paying for someone else’s transportation- since that technically is what occurs in such an occasion. However, I do understand the struggles of transportation and that there are multiple factors that go into it- some parents have work and other students depend on public transportation in the mornings, and after a long day it can be really tiring to get back home.” – Anonymous

It is true that there is only one public bus station in front of the school, and after long hours of practice (whether it be for theater, music, or athletics), students will be annoyed to not be able to ride a form of transportation right away, not to mention, the closest subway station, which would be Sunae, is a very long walk away from the school.

We tried the ID card tagging system, and clearly, it’s not working out. It’s inevitable that someone will find a loophole within a set of rules; it always happens. Perhaps what we need is something different, because this “innovation” only took us so far. For example, a one-way bus ride option which is currently not available according to the KIS homepage. Or, bus drivers enforcing the ID card tagging policy at a higher degree. Either way, the situation we all are currently in is not favorable towards certain students who pay the bus fee. However, that is not to say that we do not have any sympathetic feelings towards those who ride the after school bus without paying, because they probably have their personal reasons for it. What could be done to solve this problem? We have yet to find out.

– Leona Maruyama (‘17)

Featured Image: Clare Kwon (’18)

Sources:

http://www.kis.kr/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/2016-17-Tuition-and-Fees.pdf

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdMUSyG9BKpOuHSR6vLIf2p4DiwHAYJAbBWRLPCgIP6bXr11A/viewform?c=0&w=1

http://www.kis.kr/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/MS-HS-AS-BUS_20161013.pdf

The Courage to be Vulnerable

What does it mean to be vulnerable in Korean society?

“You are terrible at this. Why are you even here?”

“You are not good enough to do this.”

These are some of the most common comments from our peers that make us feel uncomfortable and self-doubt. As students, we face criticism and shame from people on a daily basis. Consequently, many students attempt to either hide their true selves or ignore the criticism.

Brené Brown, who is a researcher and author, proposes the revolutionary claim that we need to accept our vulnerabilities and imperfections in order to connect with others and live wholeheartedly. In her widely acclaimed novel Daring Greatly and Ted Talk, Brown explains the gifts that come with embracing vulnerability and building shame resilience, such as the three components to a wholehearted life: courage, compassion, and connection.

 

As the academic competition and expectation in South Korea are consistently high, students are always under pressure to perform well at school. One notable way of measuring the competitiveness is shown in the annually increasing high school student suicide rates. In fact, the Voice of the Youth Organisation reported that suicide is the leading cause of death in Koreans aged 15-24 years old.

As a student who attends an international school in South Korea, I find that the problem with cultivating shame resilience and accepting our imperfections is from the high expectations in academic excellence. For instance, if a Korean student gets less than 95% on an exam, this means that they are inferior to the friend who received a 96%, which leads one to conclude that the latter student will go to a better college than will the former student. Therefore, the former student’s self-esteem will diminish in response to the misconception.

 

images
(edgeofmyknowledge.wordpress.com)

 

In an image analysis conducted by Yang Liu, easterners tend to be less confident with themselves compared to westerners as depicted in the image below. One reason for this gap between the two ethnicities lies on the idea of how we view our imperfections and faults; westerners tend to accept their mistakes while easterners usually take them more seriously.

eastwest-ego
(bsix12.com)

This accounts to why I have seen my Korean peers often act artificially in front of teachers in order to maintain their status, just to hide that they are imperfect. These acts no doubt portray how determined and eager students are to work hard to achieve their goal of attending a prestigious university. However, these acts are making the community disconnected, preventing opportunities to build meaningful connections and impacts. If we want to connect and learn from one another, we need to reveal ourselves authentically and vulnerably and believe that we are enough. 

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(lovedreamsmile.com)

This is not to say that we should all not aim to be as perfect as we can be; rather, it is to advocate that sometimes we need to be vulnerable. If students start to embrace their imperfections, they will begin to understand who they are and what they need to work on. By doing so, we can not only grow as a courageous, compassionate, and connected students but also as changers in our world. So students, start showing yourselves—be vulnerable and proud.

—Sarah Se-Jung Oh (’19)

*Featured Image: Hannah Kim (’19)

Sources:

http://www.voicesofyouth.org/posts/student-suicides-in-south-korea

About

Daring Greatly & The Gifts of Imperfections by Brené Brown

https://www.ted.com

Lounge with Leona: Does Going Mainstream Mean Failure?

Sit down, take a chill pill, and relax for this week’s edition of Lounge with Leona; does something going mainstream ruin it?

So that thing you love, the one thing you consider your safe place, is now going mainstream. Now what? Perhaps you will continue cheering for and supporting that underground band whose music you could only find on Soundcloud before, or the hipster movie you wouldn’t dare talk about in front of your friends because they wouldn’t have seen it anyways. Or, will you end up getting annoyed by the constant exposure it will receive, thereby beginning to dislike or even hate the thing you used to absolutely adore?

I don’t blame you; I’m definitely a victim of this vicious cycle too. I (supposedly) discover something none of my friends have ever seen or heard of, go crazy over it, decide to share the love with others, only to unmask it so much that I get annoyed of repeatedly hearing about it (now that I’ve got my friends hooked to it as well). Take La La Land for example; an exceptional film. I’ve seen it twice, and it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen it in theaters, but I still, to this day, find myself constantly humming the soundtrack. However, I did also catch myself saying, “La La Land is so overexposed” and that the movie never really deserved the title of “Golden Globe Awards record breaker,” which, now that I think about it, is something weird to say. Had I forgotten about the times I got chills down my spine whilst watching the movie because the screenplay was so beautiful, or when I almost teared up towards the end of it? It’s definitely not that I was the first one to discover the film, but I did question why I could not genuinely be happy for the film getting more exposure, thus giving the actresses and actors I love the recognition they deserve.

I did give this a thought, and this is perhaps because I like variety in the things I watch, eat, listen to, or do. I’m always up for new things, hence my attraction towards lesser known genres of entertainment. However, there are a certain number of times things are allowed to be played constantly before it gets redundant, and before I get bored of a conversation involving it rather than genuinely enjoying the talk. So here’s the question we all want an answer to: is it always a positive for the thing you hold dear to your heart to go mainstream, or is it downhill from there? Take Taylor Swift, for example. I used to listen to her music when I was in the third grade, when she was still a singer with the guitar singing country music. Now, her songs are still about love and heartbreaks but they more or less fit the pop genre. Don’t get me wrong, I still listen to her discography. However, I assure you there are fans who have distanced themselves from her and her music because they can’t accept her new style of music. But honestly, can we blame her, or any other singer who has had a similar experience as her? They figured out what the majority of the populace likes to listen to, and adapted themselves in order to continue making music and more importantly, money. If they have found what works for them, whilst continuing to please the public, go figure.

If you have been a loyal fan of something or someone for a fairly long time, of course you may feel betrayed by them after they’ve gone mainstream (whether that was their decision or not). However, you should also remind yourself that those singers, youtubers, actors, DJs, artists…; they’re human beings. They won’t stay the same forever, and where’s the fun in that anyways? People experience new things, change, and adopt certain elements they’ve learned into whatever they’ve been doing to create something new. And such change they make in order to impress the majority may end up in them going mainstream, thus perhaps giving them a little too much exposure. But just like the La La Land example I’ve given before, try to stop yourself from no longer accepting your favorite thing just because more people know about it now. Instead, be happy for the attention they’re receiving. That’s what will allow them to continue producing what you love. Moreover, I’m sure they will always remain loyal to the fans that have continued (and hopefully will continue) supporting them before they gained immense popularity.

– Leona Maruyama (‘17)

Featured Image: Crescentia Jung (’19)

Why Art?

No more skeptical glances, no more scoffs of disapproval. Art is not a topic that one can disregard.

“Oh, she’s just going to major in art because she doesn’t have the brains to actually study.”

         “You want to go to art school? But you’re so smart! That’s such a shame.”

               “In a world full of starving children and hectic politics, how the hell does art matter?”

If you’re an art student, these sort of questions may be more than familiar to you. In a world where new developments in technology and medicine are in constant demand, it’s easy for people to cast aside the arts as irrelevant, even pointless. And to a degree, I don’t blame them. When you’re in the midst of researching for a cure for cancer, or discussing how to solve the ever imminent issue of Syrian refugees, the works of Pablo Picasso or learning how to wield a paintbrush is most likely going to be the last thing on your mind. However, that doesn’t mean that art is a subject we can completely disregard.

It’s no secret that art is an outlet for creativity. But contrary to what many may believe, this creativity isn’t just useful for choosing hues or arranging a composition. It serves a purpose later on in careers of all fields, where everywhere they look people are forced to come up with new and innovative solutions, a skill that employers look for the most. In a study conducted by Paul Silvia at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, researchers found that involving oneself in a creative activity forced people to “cultivate competence, and reflect critically on the world”. And this served true for those who weren’t necessarily masters of the arts – even seemingly amateur and foolish results spurred this sort of mental development. Especially for primary school students, an education in the arts helps rewire the brain to promote intuition, reasoning, and dexterity.

Now you may ask, to a person who struggles day by day to support themselves, to put food into their children’s mouths, why does art matter to them? In April 2016, freelance reporter Alison Stine released an article “Why Art Matters Even in Poverty”, which covered the role of art in her and her son’s life as a family who lived in poverty. Despite the hardships, Stine noted how creativity made the “the unlivable not just livable, but survivable”, and how art was a source of happiness and entertainment in their everyday lives.

To look deeper into the misconceptions of the arts, Blueprint decided to ask the 2D Arts teacher, Ms. Cone, a few questions about society’s misunderstandings of the arts and what we can do to get rid of those stereotypes.

BP: What are some of people’s’ misconceptions about art and artists themselves?

Ms. Cone: I think that one of the major misconceptions about art and artists is that people have this quintessential fear of what an artist is- the image of a starving artist, a painter living by themselves in a disheveled, one-bedroom flat, the tortured soul. And I think that what people don’t realize is how many aspects of art there are and just how much art has impacted the world around us. The term “artist” itself can be broadened to include all manners of creators, a fact that doesn’t typically come to people’s minds when they hear the word.

BP: What do you think causes some of these misconceptions about art?

Ms. Cone: Part of it I believe is due to the romanticized view, based off of movies and/or the media. When this trope became popular- I can’t say for sure. But it certainly caused people’s worries about their children wanting to become artists, as people immediately think of the picture of the artist living in squalor. So inevitably, we see less support for that career path and art becomes denigrated.   

BP: What can society do to get rid of these stereotypes of the starving artist and the ideal of students taking art as the easy way out of studying?

Ms. Cone: Oh man, that last part makes me so mad. I think part of it is coming to understand and appreciate the wide variety of artists there are in the world, and realizing how much of our daily lives are impacted by art. I’m using art in a very broad term, but literally everything you use, sit on, drive, come into contact with, had an artist- particularly industrial designers- involved in the process of creating that product. Coming to realize how much art enriches our lives everyday, not just through design but even as specific as painting. Think of hospitals that have no paintings in them, and hospitals that do have paintings in them- I’ll bet you that there are studies that show that hospitals with paintings in them make people happier. Just bringing creation and carefully considered visual spaces to people really does hold a positive impact. I think just generally being more educated will make people more appreciative of the arts. As of right now it’s really a zero-sum game- either you’re an arts person or a science person. People need to be more open to being multiple types of people. Everyone has the potential to be an artist, a creator, but they have to be willing to entertain that possibility.

Art isn’t the route of an escapist. It forces one to take a break from the bubble that surrounds us – to pause and take a look at the larger world in full force. So the next time you learn of someone choosing to take art as a career path, don’t mock them or disregard their work as insignificant. As John F. Kennedy once said, “we must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth”.

-Seiyeon Park (’17)

Featured Image: Seiyeon Park (’17) (Art by Sookja Lee)

 

Lounge with Leona: Fidel Castro’s Death & Trump’s Reaction

Sit down, take a chill pill, and relax for this week’s edition of Lounge with Leona; Fidel Castro’s death and Trump’s reaction.

On November 25th, 2016, the Cuban politician and revolutionary Fidel Castro passed away. He governed the Republic of Cuba for nearly 50 years as a Prime Minister from 1959 to 1976 and as President from 1976 to 2008.

In the year of 1959, Castro overthrew the Cuban President Batista, took full control of Cuba, and installed a communist Marxist government. Following the Marxist philosophy, under Castro’s rule, the government took over much of businesses, farms, and industries. Moreover, freedom of speech and of the press was restricted. However, after he fell ill in 2008, Castro resigned as president, and his brother Raúl has been running the country ever since.

In the year of 2014, as Cuba slowly began to disengage from Fidel Castro’s oppressive system, U.S. President Barack Obama loosened the economic embargo between the United States and Cuba, together with Raúl Castro. Such alleviation of a blockage excited the populace of both nations, as this meant not only an increase in travel between the two countries, but also a broadened scope of trade and business. Not to mention the Cubans who had defected to the United States during Fidel Castro’s regime, for now they could fly back to Cuba without encountering hardships.

As the catalyst for Cuban dictatorship was now gone, many believed the system of absolute rule, too, would disintegrate into thin air – everybody but Donald J. Trump. After a mere two days of Castro’s death, Trump had already begun threatening Cubans without even allowing enough time to let the reality of Castro’s death sink in.

It’s as if we have been pulled back to 1962 – that’s almost six decades ago –. It’s as if Obama’s attempts at normalizing the status-quo was for nothing. Trump is looking to potentially put the embargo which once existed back in place, thus nullifying the steps the United States as well as the Republic of Cuba had been taking towards truce.

Perhaps this isn’t surprising, as during his presidency campaign, Trump promised the nation to overturn any probable openings of U.S. relations with Cuba, “unless the Castro regime meets our demands – not my demands, our demands.” He is only restating what he mentioned before getting elected as President.

However, does Trump even know what he’s talking about? Honestly, I doubt that. His position on supporting U.S. hostility only unnerves the entire Republic of Cuba. In the meantime, he is allowing Raúl Castro to gain even more strength, therefore only emphasizing the authoritarian rule which Cuba is under. It is not outdated Cold War policies Cuba needs. It is the continuation of Obama’s efforts towards establishing a positive relationship with Cuba. What is the point in giving the dictator more power? Or in discouraging the reopening of embassies and limiting trade? Now is exactly the time in which the nation of America must influence the Republic of Cuba with American values and ideas of freedom, thus putting an end to Cuban dictatorship.

– Leona Maruyama (‘17)

Featured Image: http://wtax-am.sagacom.com/

Suneung: What’s the Big Deal?

Is it truly the test of a lifetime?

November: it’s a time where the days become darker, the trees begin to shed their leaves, and the blistering cold descends. It’s ironic that these characteristics could be said for another event going on in November: Suneung. This test is held annually on the second Thursday of November, and for many, it is the final step to an arduous 12 years of slaving through a rigorous education system. 

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Photo by Korea Herald

In order to clearly understand what this test entails, we have to first look at what the actual tests are. The main categories are as follows: Korean Language, Mathematics, English, Science/Social Studies/Vocational Education, and a Foreign Language. The first three categories Korean Language, Mathematics, and English are fairly straightforward as there are no sub-categories within these three tests. However, the same cannot be said about the other tests. Science is divided into Physics 1&2, Chemistry 1&2, Biology 1&2, and Earth Science 1&2. Students can take up to 2 different subjects in the Science category. Social Studies is further divided into Life and Ethics, Ethics and Thought, Korean History, Geography of Korea, Geography of the world, History of Eastern Asia, World History, Law and Politics, Society and Culture, and Economics. Students can choose to take up to 2 different subjects for this category as well. The Vocational Education category includes Agricultural Science, Industry, Commerce, Oceanography, and Home Economics. For this category, students are permitted to take up to one subject. Finally, for a Foreign Language, students have the option to take German language 1, French language 1, Spanish language 1, Chinese language 1, Japanese language 1, Russian language 1, Arabic language 1, basic Vietnamese language, or Hanja 1.

From this extensive list, you will probably see that Korean high school students are expected to be knowledgeable in several areas of study. Subsequently, in order to perform well on the Suneung, years and years of preparation must go into mastery for these subjects. Students will start from as early as middle school, and sometimes even elementary school, in order to gain a head start in the Suneung prep process. Once students reach high school, a lot of their freedoms are restricted: school periods are extended, cram sessions are mandatory after school, and parents will send kids off to either hagwons or private study rooms late into the night after cram sessions at school.

Perhaps it is for this reason that for one day every year, the entire Korean populace is silent as they pray and hope for the best results of all of the students. Parents flock to their local churches and temples to pray for their children to perform well on the test. It isn’t only the parents working hard to ensure that their children do well though. During the English listening portion of the test, all take-offs and landings are halted in order to make sure that no student in any region will face major disturbances. Furthermore, local police willingly provide rides to students running late.

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Photo by Korea Herald

Support from local communities are gargantuan as well. First year and second year high school students will wait outside the gates of their high school as the third year students pass by to take the test. Underclassmen will often hand out yeot, a sticky traditional confectionary similar to that of taffy, with the expression “Eat a yeot” so that students taking the test will “stick” to the schools that they have studied so hard to get into.

Now, this system of college entrance may not be the most effective way to gauge a student’s ability to succeed in college or in life. In fact, it probably is one of, if not the most brutal and competitive manner of college admission. However, it is the system that we have to deal with. So next year, if you see students cramming into the late night as the date approaches the second Thursday of November, take a moment to pray for these poor souls as they have only one shot to make their 12 years of education count.

Written by Ye Chan Song (’18)

Featured Image & Photos by Korea Herald

Single-Sex vs. Co-ed Education

It has been hotly debated: Single-sex education or Co-ed Schools?

“I want my son to realize that women have roles in society as well.”

“I don’t want my daughters to have a phobia against men when they grow up.”

These are some of the common arguments from parents who are against single-sex education. In fact, the growing disdain towards same-sex education contributes to the recent decline of single-sex education : over the past three decades, according to the Guardian, the number of single-sex state school declined from 2,500 to just over 400 while 130 schools in the UK do not offer it. 

In spite of the numerous advantages given by proponents of single-sex education, there is an increasing number of people who defy them. Diane Halpern, former president of  American Psychological Association, claimed that segregating females and males not only “foster sexism and stereotypes” but also proves futile; there is no concrete evidence that substantiates the widely held belief that single-sex education yields benefits. For instance, an analysis of 184 studies that tested 1.6 million students from 21 nations failed to discover any advantages of single-sex education.

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(dailycampus.com)

An interesting perspective brought forth by a staff columnist for the Daily Campus, Alex Oliveira also brought into question on whether or not single-sex education bridges the gap in gender decisions on STEM careers. Oliveira describes such education as an “oversimplification” that “ignores the fact that all students are individuals” who learn all differently. She further goes on to argue that dividing girls and boys will confuse the divisions in their “expectations for each other” since we are in fact establishing a set goal for the genders: girls to STEM and boys to arts. Another obvious argument is futuristic: if students do not engage in works with the opposite sex, they will not be able to cope when in the workplace. Canberra Grammar School (CGS) and other single-sex schools have recently transitioned to co-ed for the purposes of the future.

As a student who has attended a girls school in Australia for several years, I find the arguments of those who are against somewhat ludicrous. While attending Canberra Girls Grammar School (CGGS), I was able to develop strong interests in a variety of subjects including maths, creative writing, and textiles; the upperclassmen there have taken up even careers such as mechanical engineering  and actuarial studies after they enrolled in a building class at CGGS.

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(cggs.act.edu.au)

As classrooms are orientated for girls, they engender affinity and understanding for one another as they participate much more actively. Of course, when transitioning to a coed school, it was difficult to adapt to having both genders. However, it was not that bad of a transition because I had opportunities in and out of school to interact and work with males, and I think this is where most miss the point: going to a single sex school doesn’t mean you are completely precluded from the opposite gender. You can still have numerous outside of school activities that you can participate in, and even activities at school. For example, CGGS interacts with the boys’ school several times a year in musical festivals, formals, and other collaborative activities.

There’s a lot less to worry about since you didn’t have to be as careful as you would have to be in a coed school. Even if you get in a verbal fight, things were settled within minutes…we had much tighter bonds than guys do in coed school since we went through a lot together and I still miss this brotherhood.” —Geo Han (’17), student who attended all-boys school. 

When asked to Karen Kim (‘18), who attended a girl’s boarding school, maintained that she disliked the school. Karen noted that while many believe that it is safer to attend a single sex school (especially for girls), she disagrees. Others who were interviewed repeated the idea of “dullness” without both genders. However, for mothers, it is divergent as they hold strongly to the belief that it is better and safer for their kids to go to single sex schools.

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(education.net.au)

As the gap between those who are for and against single-sex education enlarges, it is vital for us to take into account both sides of the case. Even though coed schools may be advantageous to those of single sex, there is no doubt that there are still people who prefer single-sex education over co-ed. So what do we do?

We should not diminish single sex education and those who do attend them. There are students who prefer them and others who don’t; it all depends on their personality traits and learning styles.

—Sarah Se-Jung Oh (’19)

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