Editorial: Holiday season cries out for generosity

In the midst of the holidays, with constant reminders to express appreciation and give thanks, it’s appropriate to think of those who are less fortunate than we are. 2016 has had no shortage of oppression, injustice, and harsh treatment of minorities, both at home and halfway across the world, so to combat this, we encourage you to have compassion and be aware of other people’s struggles. There are always things that can be done to help whether it’s lending a hand at a local soup kitchen or donating money to Doctors Without Borders. You can make a difference.

If the presents you get for Christmas this year leave you unsatisfied, thinking about civilians under siege in Aleppo may help you regain perspective. For the past five years, Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, has been caught in the cross hairs of a brutal civil war, with the rebels fighting for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad. Russia has now allied with Assad and is conducting airstrikes on hospitals, schools, and neighborhoods full of civilians trapped within the city by a blockade imposed by the Syrian government in early July. Of the 250,000 civilians in the rebel-held part of the city, approximately 100,000 are children, according to the New York Times. With food and medical supplies running low, children have become the most frequent and heart-breaking victims of the bombings.

Although the conditions in Aleppo are horrible, the world community should not give up hope or stop caring. One day, when the blockade is lifted, civilians will need medical attention, food, and other supplies, and there are ways to help now to ensure those supplies will be available. UNICEF USA, a humanitarian organization, has been giving aid to the Syrians and Syrian refugees since the beginning of the crisis, and it is dedicated to delivering much needed supplies and giving the children a better future. Along with other humanitarian organizations, including Doctors without Borders whose members risk their lives providing medical attention to the wounded, UNICEF welcomes donations to provide resources for the wounded and the citizens that are left in the city.

So while you’re writing your wish list, remember the thousands of people who are just hoping to find a hot meal or clean clothes under their tree this holiday. By giving back to those in need, you’re making an impact in someone’s life, even if it doesn’t seem like it. Keep in mind that the spirit of the holidays revolve around being grateful for what you have, and recognizing that others aren’t so lucky; take the step and start your 2017 with compassion and generosity.

‘The Crown’ mixes history, drama, style

Netflix has delivered another astonishing series with the release of The Crown on Nov. 4. Revolving around the conflict between the private and public life of Queen Elizabeth II as she ascends the throne after her father, King George the VI, dies of lung cancer, The Crown gives viewers a glimpse into the life of the famous monarch.

The Crown portrays the Queen as something of a puppet who follows the orders and mandates of prominent men, including her husband and members of Parliament, instead of her own gut instincts. As a glorified figurehead for the people of Britain, Elizabeth ascendes the throne at 25 while trying to be a good sister, mother, wife, and Queen. Despite her desire to spend time with her children, Elizabeth must push her yearnings aside to run the “vital monarchy.”

The marriage of Elizabeth and Philip provides a spot of romance in a show dominated by politics. The Crown depicts the couple’s life in the early 1950s, including the quarrels. Although there is obviously love, chemistry, and affection, their relationship was also contentious and argumentative. They bickered over frivolous issues, such as whether the couple should keep Philip’s last name or move into Buckingham palace or details of Elizabeth’s coronation, and fought over more serious matters, like Philip’s alleged affairs.
The Crown also packs in tons of family-oriented drama. For example, Queen Mary resents her eldest son, Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne in order to marry Wallis Simpson, a divorced American woman. In a royal snub, she refuses to extend an invitation for King George VI’s funeral or Elizabeth’s coronation to Edward’s wife. Only Elizabeth shows empathy and benevolence towards Edward, her renegade uncle, highlighting her compassionate side.

The Crown is the most expensive television program to date because of the astonishing scenery and costume design. The set designers did a remarkable job of accurately portraying the dress, architecture, customs, and setting of the era, captivating audiences with glamor and splendor.

The stunning, breath-taking acting in The Crown is one of its standout features, with raw, pure emotion, and substance. It is easy to grow emotionally attached to characters due to the depth of the performances by an all star cast comprised of seasoned actors like Claire Foy, Matt Smith, and John Lithgow. The combination of script, acting, and cinematography leads to a sublime entertainment.

Historically accurate, The Crown hits events critical to the time period, such as the re-election of prime minister Winston Churchill and a killing dense smog epidemic. However, the pace is slow, not action-packed, relying on drama that borders on the soap opera and that sometimes feels like a historical documentary without the narrator. Overall, the directors and screenwriters produced a fascinating, engaging show that is also educational. The Crown won’t thrill viewers with suspense, but if you enjoyed the quality and pacing of Downton Abbey, the 10-episode-series is a must watch.

~emma dixon, copy production editor

Societal pressure distorts teens’ body image

The practice of making critical, potentially humiliating comments about one’s self or another due to their size or weight is known as body shaming, and, in an age where social media makes it easy to voice one’s opinion, putting people down for their appearance is easier than ever before. Even President—elect Donald Trump has been quoted several times as saying several derogatory things about women, in particular, Miss Universe 1996 Alicia Machado. The culture’s obsession with what’s “in” regarding physical appearance encourages teens to judge and shame those who do not exactly fit the mold.

“Body shaming happens to everyone,” senior Luisa Turner said. “Everyone’s body is different from one another, yet for some reason we still mock people for their differences.”

Society’s ideal perfect body shifts constantly, leaving teens open to criticism for being too tall, too short, too fat, too skinny, too frail, or too muscular. Photoshop editing alters the appearances of famous celebrities, and while portraying a celebrity in an attractive way is a selling point for magazine ads, several magazines have come under fire for blatantly distorting a woman’s body or lightening their skin tone. Zendaya, Jennifer Lawrence, Lady Gaga, and many other celebrities chide these magazines for creating a false ideal body for their fans to look up to. It seems that the media is pushing the idea that we should want to change, and that we should care about looking slimmer and taller, yet curvy all at the same time. Continuous body shaming has been linked to eating disorders, and can also severely cripple one’s self-esteem, resulting in social anxiety from a sense of rejection regarding physical attributes.

Body shaming creates a divide between people, separating them into groups that matter and those who are not worthy of consideration. According to April Lyons, a licensed psychotherapist, body shamers ostracize others because they feel discomfort with deviations from their ideas of beauty and social acceptance. What gives people the right to put down someone simply because he or she doesn’t fit their perception of beauty? According to Braintree Adolescent Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), when someone feels upset or perhaps intimidated by another, he or she may use body shaming as a self-defense mechanism in order to feel better. It may be easier to attack someone than express how she or he truly feels.

We should aim to live in a society where we can accept all, regardless of our differences. To create a more accepting world, attempt to confront those who take part in body-shaming. They may not realize how they could be offending someone else, and you could very well be a body shamer yourself. Instead, identify someone in your life who is body-positive. No one has to be perfect to be body positive, and the very positivity he or she exudes could help you accept yourself more.

And finally, find something you like about your body. It can be hard sometimes, as we all can get in a funk about our appearance, but your body is yours alone. While you live in it, you should learn to appreciate your body while you can. And when one can accept oneself, it is then easier to accept someone else. Acceptance of one another is the ultimate test of humanity, and we possess the ability to heal through love and the openness of our minds and hearts. If the majority of society can band together and accept the very fact that we are different, then the few who hate will be snuffed out by love.

~tatjana shields, staff reporter

Verdun encourages teamwork

Sophomores Tessa Skirsky, Alyssa Gilmore, Lauren Burrell, Hope Burnett, Kevin McGeeching and Daniel Mclinden were challenged to use two-by-fours to create a bridge from one side of a ‘lava pit’ to the other. 

 

Experiential learning, a popular teaching trend, gives students the opportunity to engage in hands-on activities, followed by reflection on their work, to achieve a higher level of learning. On Oct. 28, English teacher Cynthia Pryor took her sophomore English classes to Verdun, a team building retreat, to explore themes from the novel Lord of the Flies.

“I thought it might be interesting to take students to Verdun to experience a situation similar to those of the boys on the island to force them to work in groups to problem solve to ‘survive’ difficult challenges,” Pryor said.

Verdun provides a safe environment for the students to consider the relationship between the physical activities and the disturbing events depicted in the novel. Pryor split the students into random groups to force them out of their comfort zones and then let the Verdun facilitators take over. Sophomore Sydney Stafford said that the groupings required students to exercise skills they didn’t know they had.

“We were all very inclusive and supportive of one another. I think it was the teamwork and trust that we built throughout the day that got us to the end,” Stafford said. “It’s a good thing to be reminded every once in a while that you still have potential.”

The activities were designed to place students in the survival mindset of the boys stranded on the island. Some activities required students to collaborate to scale a 10 foot wall or lift a tire off a 10 foot pole without touching the pole, while others required teams to solve problems in complete silence.

Sophomore Sydney Stafford’s favorite obstacle was the Walk of Life, where the students were required to help each other walk across a thin cable suspended between two wooden poles over the ground.

“[I like how] we all got to work together; we all had to be able to trust each other to get one another across and hold onto each other’s arms and stuff,” Stafford said. “Personal boundaries were out the window.”

Pryor described this field trip as a high-yield experience in that students gained invaluable insights into themselves and the novel. Sophomore Jake Sadowski learned valuable life lessons from the experience.

“I learned that everyone, no matter their status or appearance, does have something to offer. Many times we will overlook their potential based on clothes they wear or the friends they have,” Sadowski said. “If school is truly about learning, shouldn’t it be more important for children, the next generation and the inheritors of the earth, to learn practical information? I learned more about myself in team building in just a few hours at Verdun than I have [while] at school for a year.”

~nina quiles, managing editor

Palmer’s achievements in coaching winter guard receive accolades, recognition

In addition to a teaching load of three AP English Literature classes, and his administrative duties as the English department head, Lindell Palmer has a demanding schedule as coach, teacher, and director of two winter guard teams. He also consults with two other high school teams, and he volunteers to choreograph and teach routines to the FHS color guard.

Palmer directs the Stonewall Independent winter guard, a team that is currently ranked sixth in the world by Winter Guard International (WGI). Moreover, Palmer coaches Westfield High School’s winter guard team, which in 2015, its first year, took a gold medal at the Atlantic Indoor Association competition. He estimates that he works an additional 36 hours each week from November to mid-April, coaching his teams to reach their highest potential and hoping to spread the sport’s popularity.
Palmer became interested in the sport as a sophomore in high school because he had a crush on a girl who did color guard.

“One day I was talking to her after school, and she was spinning a rifle. She said it was really hard, but I said it looked really simple, so I started doing it. I had a natural talent at it,” Palmer said. “She was impressed, so she went and got her guard instructor. He came and watched me do it; then he got the band director, and they all watched me do it. They were all impressed that I could do it with no training, so that’s how I began.”

In a strange twist, after Palmer agreed to join the team, the girl dropped out of color guard, but he had already found his love for the sport. Palmer joined an independent team called Revelation, located in Richmond, while attending William and Mary. He also began coaching teams.

“My first coaching gig was Denbigh High School,” Palmer said. “I taught them a routine, and I got a little money for that, so I thought, ‘Hey, this is nice.’ After that I went and taught at several different schools in Williamsburg while I was in college, and then I started working at Liberty High School.”

Although color guard is traditionally performed outdoors and accompanies the marching band, winter guard is performed indoors to recorded music. Teams are divided into Scholastic or Independent divisions by WGI classifications. Scholastic winter guard teams consist of members who all attend the same high school, while Independent teams are not connected to a school and membership is more selective.

Palmer’s specialty is winter guard. Described by WGI as the “sport of the arts,” winter guard is based on military ceremonies and combines many different skills, including choreography and dance, theatre, gymnastics, costuming, and the spinning of flags, swords, and rifles.

“Today’s top winter guards really are giving you an entire performance, and it involves a lot of dance and acting,” Palmer said. “When you watch some of the best color guards in the world, it is art; they are producing art. They are taking stories that you know or famous art pieces and making them come alive on the floor right in front of you. It’s like watching the rhythmic gymnasts you see at the Olympics. It’s hard to believe what they’re doing.”
According to Palmer, although winter guard is very popular in Texas and the northeast, it is slowly receiving recognition locally.

“There are independent teams that are treated like professional sports players, so there are people that follow them and buy their gear, [but] people that don’t hear about it, don’t even know that it exists,” Palmer said. “A couple years ago, there was a major competition here at Fauquier High School. Most of the students didn’t even know that it occurred, and didn’t realize the caliber of the performers here at their school.”

Palmer enjoys working with the high school teams, including the FHS color guard, Westfield, Pride of Prince William County, and Herndon High School, because of the bonds he forms with students as he watches them progress through four years of training. However, from an artistic standpoint, he has found that independent teams are more satisfying to coach.

“First of all, the ages vary, so independent teams normally go from age 15 to 23, and so you have a lot more mature individuals participating in it. That makes a big difference,” Palmer said. “They are more focused; they come there because they already love what they’re doing. You can push them harder, so we have more intense rehearsals, longer rehearsals, because they are there for a purpose, and they enjoy what they do.”

Palmer began directing at Stonewall Jackson High School in 2004. In 2013, Palmer’s high school team transitioned to Independent class, and he took them to the largest competition in the country to compete at the WGI world championships. He had been coaching some members of the team for three years, so the team had progressed and formed very tight bonds.

“I didn’t want to separate them because they were so good,” Palmer said. “Some kids were getting ready to graduate, so I said, ‘Let’s try to go as far as we can.’ The kids themselves did not believe they could do that well because they were from a small school from Virginia.”

Some parents were concerned that these ambitions would result in failure and that Palmer was setting them up for disappointment. However, these fears disappeared when the team placed first at regionals.

“We went to our first regional, and we won it without question. It was just funny because I went in and told the kids that our goal was to make finals at the regional, but not only did we make finals, we went first place across the world,” Palmer said. “At that point I realized that we had something special, and we could probably medal at world championships.”

The team went on to capture the silver medal at the WGI world championship in its first year of competition, and it has made it to the finals every year since 2013.
Palmer’s reputation has grown along with the success he has brought to the teams he has coached. Since his start with Stonewall, all of his coaching jobs have resulted from schools or programs contacting and recruiting him. In March, 2016, he was inducted into the AIA Hall of Honor for his contributions to the sport.

“It was quite the honor; I wasn’t expecting it at all. They don’t tell you ahead of time, so I had no clue it was coming, but when they called my name I realized that my parents were there and all of my friends that had been notified,” Palmer said. “There were several students that I had taught in the past who are now directors, as well. It was a nice feeling seeing all of my students out there supporting me and people that I had marched with when I was much younger.”

Palmer still works with former students through Stonewall Independent and as a mentor for those who have gone on to coach. Devon Robinson first met Palmer when he joined the winter guard at Stonewall Jackson. Palmer’s teaching allowed Robinson to excel in winter guard, and after graduating, he now works as Palmer’s assistant.

“I think Mr. Palmer’s strengths as a coach are his limitless creativity and composure during the hectic and stressful moments of rehearsal,” Robinson said. “I am astounded whenever I see his choreography for the group. When Mr. Palmer works with our group, he’s building a foundation for excellence and opportunity for the future.”

~nathaniel thomason, staff reporter

Top left: Lindell Palmer does a warm up routine in 2011 with the Stonewall High School winter guard before competition to help the performers breathe, stretch, and relax. Several performers went on to join Stonewall Independent (below left), who are shown in the final pose of the 2016 World Championship at which the team placed sixth in the world. Right: Stonewall Independent strikes the opening pose for their 2015 World Championship performance. The team placed ninth in the world.