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PRO/CON: Bears – Cute and cuddly or Godless killing machines?

PRO by Maddie Lemelin, features/arts director

Let’s take a moment and appreciate bears. They are the soft toilet paper of the world – necessary and comfortable, yet often overlooked. But the truth is, bears are a necessary part of the food chain, environment, and entertainment industry.
Picture this: salmon everywhere, flopping all over schools and homes, swimming in pools and bathtubs and tearing apart the universe one fin at a time. If only there was a furry beast that depended on fish to survive that could save us from this dystopia. Oh, wait. There is – the bear. If it weren’t for this magnificent creature, the fish surplus could clog streams used for drinking water and dominate the habitats of other underwater life.
Since ancient times, bears have been a symbol of power and strength. But with the release of the teddy bear in the 1900s, their image transitioned to one cuddly and cute. They dominate the film and television industry. Let’s not forget the Pixar classic, Brave, which won the Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Animated Picture; bears showed us the meaning of true family. Not good enough, you say? More convincing is what you require? Then take a gander back to 1967 when Walt Disney’s The Jungle Book taught us the importance of the ‘bare necessities’ with the help of the goofy and charismatic Baloo. And don’t forget the honey-loving, cuddly, chubby, stuffed-with-fluff Winnie the Pooh.
Can you imagine a world without Winnie the Pooh? I can, and I want no part of it. If it’s still difficult for you to imagine bears in a tender light, think back to Disney’s Brother Bear, which put us in the bear’s paws after a curse forces the protagonist into a grizzly’s body. Although he hated the species that killed his brother, Kenai’s journey showed him that humans and bears are all just creatures trying to survive.
Some may portray these magical, misunderstood creatures as violent, scary or maybe even terrifying. Yes, there is the occasional mauling accident, but would you stand idly by while someone was hiking in your home? Didn’t think so. Bears attack humans because humans are in their territory, or threatening their cubs. The real issue, however, is the way humans treat bears. Six out of the eight bear species in the world are endangered because poachers kill them and sell their body parts and fur for a profit.
There are ways for humans to peacefully coexist with bears, despite being two of the most aggressive predators on the planet. Humans living in a bear populated area should be aware of bear behavior and ecology in order to cohabitate safely. In addition, an effort should be made to remove lures such as bird feeders, livestock carcasses, or fruit trees.
In a time when our world is technology-heavy, taking time to understand bears is taking time to understand nature.

CON by Abby Seitz, online/associate director

America has been completely blinded by the internet and the media once again. Many times when I have logged onto Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr with high hopes of finding entertaining material, I have found my peers consumed with bear mania. Whether it’s a video of a polar bear cub sliding around on ice or a large bear sitting at a picnic table, it’s about as repulsive as that freshman couple that posts pictures of their make-out sessions. The adoration surrounding bears needs to stop.
As a child, I loved bears. I had hats, stuffed animals, and even a collection of panda postcards. Upon my first visit to the zoo, I was thrilled at the prospect of visiting all of the different bears. When I reached the panda exhibit, the bears were eating and hiding from the public. I moved onto the sloth bear exhibit to find a furry failure at life, asleep and apathetic. I decided to give the Andean bear a shot, only to find another bear playing dead. While that sounds like a case of bad luck, after five more visits to the zoo, I’m not sure the bears even rolled over in my absence. For years, I was misled by Bear in the Big Blue House, Winnie the Pooh, and Little Bear. My childhood was shattered by furry menaces. America needs to realize that underneath the alleged cuddly and adorable shell, bears are truly evil creatures.
Maybe you’ve been persuaded by the advertisements for wildlife funds to keep polar bears alive, featuring little puffs of fur in their natural habitat. If this is the case, you are a victim of propaganda. Where is the push to keep endangered reptiles alive? According to a Feb. 15 article on the NBC News website, nearly one-fifth of reptiles are on the road to extinction. Because lizards and snakes have a disgusting and slimy stigma disguising their true beauty, their endangerment is being overlooked. Pandas and other endangered bears are being kept alive purely because they’re cute. America cannot handle the facts – harmless reptiles are dying, while bellicose bears slowly take over the public’s heart.
Bears are violent killers. From 2000 to 2010, there were 27 bear-related deaths in North America, according to backpacker.com. Seventeen of the attacks were by black bears, while 10 grizzly bears unleashed their true mission in life. As Stephen Colbert has exclaimed on The Colbert Report, bears are “Godless killing machines.”
If cold hard science isn’t enough to prove bears dangerous and useless creatures, pick up a copy of the Bible. In 2 Kings 2:23, the prophet Elisha curses children in the name of the Lord. As a result of the damnation, two bears emerge from the woods and maul 48 children. If the Bible is enough of a reason to prohibit gay marriage and abortion, it is certainly logical evidence in the fight against bears.
Bears are just about as dangerous as kitchen knives or breaking up with Taylor Swift. What other despicable attributes do these creatures possess? Bears have been involved in a string of criminal acts, from stealing to breaking and entering. According to a Sept. 25 report by ABC News, a bear in California stumbled out of the woods and stole a backpack and an iPad, belonging to a fisherman. If any human committed this act, they would be in serious trouble with the law. However, because bears are so “cuddly,” this bear was let completely off the hook. Various other reports have surfaced in the last decade, involving bears breaking into Subway restaurants, Norwegian cabins, and cars in Colorado. In Churchill, Canada, dubbed the “Polar Bear Capital of the World,” residents avoid walking the streets during bear season, and leave cars unlocked to provide refuge in case of an attack. Bears are threatening society because we’re letting them. If you are a whole-hearted American like myself, you are probably asking what you can do to aid the movement against the bears. First, we need to stop lying to children. We must stop buying Care Bear backpacks for children and or reading them Berenstein Bear books. Parents should trash teddy bears and buy stuffed reptiles instead. If we start by educating youngsters, we can erase the twisted concept of associating cuddly and cute with pandas and grizzlies. It may take several generations to completely rid society of their bear infatuation, but time is trivial when compared to saving America from these monsters.

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Enigmatic teachers proffers wisdom

An oasis of creativity occupies the end of the 100s hallway. Cinderblock walls display an array of posters, featuring everything from Walt Whitman to The X Files. near a wooden desk, flooded with papers. A towering man sits at the desk, sporting a few ear piercings, a collared shirt, and infamous dreadlocks.
“My dreadlocks are a pseudo-spiritual measure of time,” English department head Lindell Palmer said. “T.S. Elliot once wrote, ‘I measure my life in coffee spoons.’ My dreadlocks measure my life.”
Palmer grew up in South Hill, Virginia, a small town about 20 minutes from the North Carolina border. He graduated from The College of William and Mary with degrees in anthropology and English. While he dreamed of being an anthropologist, a career in teaching was a “natural progression,” according to Palmer.
“My father is a principal, and my mother is a teacher,” Palmer said. “I grew up in schools, waiting for them to be done so I could go home. I love talking about English, and now I get to do it every day.”
Palmer has taught a number of courses, including mythology, American Civilization, and English 10. He currently teaches AP Literature, creative writing, and English 11.
“My favorite part of teaching is meeting wonderful students and interacting with them,” Palmer said. “I love discussing literature and film and introducing students to different elements of it, and seeing their reaction when the light bulb goes off and they understand it.”
Palmer developed his student-centric teaching philosophy through education classes and trial-and-error.
“I believe in facilitating learning with a little bit of instruction and lecture, but then I stand back and let students discover things with my guidance,” Palmer said. “If a student has an interest, we can pursue it together.”
Palmer’s AP class is infamous for time-consuming projects; however, students find the work worthwhile.
“[Palmer’s AP class] makes me laugh, makes me cry, and changes my life,” senior Danielle DiLisi said. “He’s hip and funny. He’s lenient, but he’s still tough when it comes to work. He’s a paradox, and I love it.”
Palmer said students play a large part in their learning.
“My favorite projects were student suggested,” Palmer said. “One year, a student was struggling with understanding happiness, so I had the class research happiness and write a paper. I continue to assign that project today.”
Colleagues, such as Lee Lorber, enjoy working with Palmer.
“He’s never too busy to stop and talk to teachers,” Lorber said. “He’s not all crazy when it comes to his ideas; he’s flexible in his thinking. He’s always upbeat. His laugh is his signature.”
Palmer has sponsored Voices and Visions, the school’s literary magazine, since he first began teaching at FHS seven years ago.
“My favorite part of Voices and Visions is working with students who love the arts and graphic design,” Palmer said. “I like working with students outside of the classroom environment and seeing the best art and prose and poetry in our school.”
AP student and Voices and Visions design editor senior Tony Frank said that Palmer’s compassion for students sets him apart.
“Not only is he a good listener, but he’s a good conversationalist,” Frank said. “He’s open minded, and he’s not as judgmental as other teachers. He doesn’t look down on students.”
Outside of school, Palmer’s interests vary from watching American Dad to dance.
“I like modern dance; I danced in college,” Palmer said. “With ballet, it’s all about pretty and point shoes. In modern dance, there are contractions and contorting.”
Palmer directs Stonewall Jackson High School’s color guard, which is currently ranked number one in the country after a first place finish at the 2012 Atlantic Indoor Association Championships in Raleigh, NC.
“I was a natural at color guard when I did it in high school,” Palmer said. “There was a girl I liked who invited me to do it. She quit, but I fell in love with [color guard]. I like coaching because I enjoy watching students progress.”
Palmer cited Sherman Alexie and Toni Morrison as his favorite authors.
“My favorite work of Alexie’s is The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven,” Palmer said. “It’s a collection of short stories that are intertwined, so you can read them as one, or read each story individually.”
If he isn’t watching history documentaries or jamming to Radiohead, Palmer can often be found interacting with the natural world.
“I like going for nature walks and hiking,” Palmer said. “I like driving down back roads and getting lost. It’s my dream to live off the grid.”

~Abby Seitz, online/associate editor

Taco Bell moving to new location

Our generation has witnessed many historic events, from the election of America’s first black president to the opening of the new building on campus. In April, we will see another groundbreaking event in our community – the opening of a new Taco Bell at 238 Broadview Avenue, the site of a former Exxon station.
“I’m so excited that I don’t think I can put it into words,” freshman Dominique Herring said. “It’ll be bigger and brand new. The Gainesville Taco Bell has a beautiful color scheme inside, so I’m hoping we’re lucky and get one just as nice.”
Taco Bell is moving because their 20-year lease at the current location expires on April 13. The new Taco Bell will be 2,420 square feet.
“The new Taco Bell will have two drive thru’s, rather than one,” manager Shakur Ackbar said. “It will also have a bar style set up in place of some tables. Everything will be brand new; we aren’t bringing anything over there from the current location.”
While some may find the changes exciting, others are dismayed by the restaurant’s new location. Junior Davy Savering and his friends go to Taco Bell every Thursday, and while the new location is closer to the school, their experience will be compromised.
“Before, it was closer to my home and that shopping center with Chipotle,” Savering said. “Now it’s all out of the way for me. We would mess around in that shopping center after we finished eating at Taco Bell, and it’ll be too far away to do that.”
Junior Chase Lacy, also a member of the Taco Bell crew, was extremely disappointed to find out that his beloved restaurant is moving.
“I like where it currently is. It’s like taco home,” Lacy said. “I don’t want to move my taco home. It’s been there for as long as I can remember. It won’t be the same.”
Lacy also said the prospect of a newer and more modern setting does not soothe the pain.
“My friends add the flavor, not the decor,” Lacy said. “I like the gritty, poor feeling you get when you walk in there. It’s plain and boring, but it’s Taco Bell.”
Nevertheless, Lacy said he will continue to give the chain business.
“[The Taco Bell Crew] will make it work, and we will certainly continue to go every Thursday,” Lacy said. “You cannot put a price on love. Even though the Bell has sinned, I will forgive.”

~Abby Seitz, online/associate editor

Opinion: Adolescent mental health system is failing patients

In a country where one in five Americans under 18 have a diagnosable mental disorder, there is a major gap in both understanding and treating mental illness among adolescents. The flawed mental health system results from a lack of quality treatment and the crippling stigma surrounding those suffering from a disorder. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, half of all lifetime cases of mental illness are developed by age 14; however, only one-third of diagnosed teenagers receive professional help. Americans seem surprised when a tragedy due to a lack of proper treatment occurs, yet there has not been a serious initiative to improve the mental health system since Nellie Bly exposed the dirty secrets of mental institutions in 1887.

The most common mental disorders among adolescents are mood, anxiety, personality, and eating disorders. Schizophrenia, ADHD, and autism are also prevalent. According to Fauquier County Public Schools psychologist Alan Cameron, younger children are more commonly diagnosed with autism or behavioral and developmental problems, while depression and anxiety often manifest in middle and high school students. The school system’s involvement in a student’s mental health can vary from case to case.

“The counseling department is the first line of defense,” Cameron said. “Sometimes the school psychologist is called in for a second opinion, especially if there are questions about risk of harm to self or others.  In extreme cases, as with a student who is actively suicidal, we work collaboratively with Regional Behavioral Health to facilitate admission to the nearest adolescent mental health facility. For both legal and pragmatic reasons, schools often have difficulty maintaining communication with the child’s psychiatrist and/or out-of-school counselor.”

Treating a student with mental health issues extends beyond the jurisdiction of the school, as responsibilities for treatment are often turned over to the parents. However, Cameron says receiving effective treatment through medication and/or therapy can be challenging.

“It can be very difficult for parents to find counselors and psychiatrists who specialize in children and adolescents,” Cameron said. “The wait time for an appointment is typically weeks and sometimes months.  There is still a lot of trial-and-error involved in finding the right medication, and insurance companies are quite spotty in what they will cover.”

The mental health system is a topic for debate in the media nearly every month, whether a school shooting occurs or a new study is released about teenagers and eating disorders. Statistics support a constant spotlight on mental health – suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents in America, yet only 37 percent of those diagnosed receive treatment for depression. Somehow, the issue is on America’s mind, however, little is being done to help those suffering. The stigma surrounding mental health is as alive as ever, which does not help in any way. At all.

It’s considered out of line to tell a diabetic kid to go eat a cupcake, yet terms such as “schizophrenia,” “bipolar,” and “suicidal” are easily associated by the general public with “violent” and “crazy.” Teenagers suffering from mood and personality disorders are told their condition is just a phase, while those with an eating disorder are told to go eat a cheeseburger. The stigma pushes those who need help into a world of silence and shame. Teens often worry that if they seek help, they could lose friends, college admission, or social status. Mental disorders are often the result of a genetic disposition or a biological imbalance – two factors that are just as out of a patient’s control as asthma or cancer. Until there is a general understanding that mental health is equivalent to physical health, the advancement of proper treatment will be stunted, especially among reputation-conscious teenagers.

The media and Hollywood are partially to blame for society’s perception of mental illness. Every time a tragedy happens, news outlets are quick to ask what was wrong with the perpetrator. The media immediately labels the perpetrator as crazy because they are schizophrenic or autistic, while the tragedy likely occurred because the perpetrator received low quality treatment for their disorder, if they received any help at all. Hollywood has a similar problem – television shows such as Law & Order portray mentally ill criminals in a stereotypical and negative light. A connection between jail, dangerous, and mental illness is forged in viewers minds. However, in Breaking Bad, Hollywood tells America it’s okay to make meth in an RV and murder anyone who gets in your way if you’re dying of cancer. You know, because physical health is tragic and not your fault, while mental health is something you really need to get over.

One way to help eliminate social stigma is a mainstream, national campaign. Through advertisements and publicity, a campaign that puts a face on the issue could be extremely effective. Demi Lovato, for example, has been a wonderful pioneer in eliminating eating disorder stigma – she has admitted her own past problem, given hope to those struggling, and even called out Disney Channel for making a joke in a movie. If more celebrities would stand up like Lovato, many minds could be changed, especially those of the teenagers who are doing the bullying.

Sadly, even if the stigma surrounding mental illness was eliminated completely, the flaws of the health system still exist. A teenage source who wishes to remain anonymous described his stay in a mental hospital as “degrading” and “cruel.”

“I tried to kill myself, and I had anxiety problems, too,” the source said. “We weren’t allowed to even have pencils, because the staff thought we would hurt ourselves. We weren’t allowed outside, and I barely even talked to any real doctors while I was there. I wasn’t even allowed to call home. It was basically like jail, except in jail, you at least get a call.”

When asked if his stay was beneficial to his recovery, the source said the negative effects still linger nearly a year later.

“I still have nightmares about that place,” the source said. “If anything, my entire stay made me want to succeed if I ever tried to kill myself again, so I wouldn’t end up back there. All they cared about was labeling me as crazy, getting me on drugs, and getting the money that comes with the entire corrupted psychiatry industry.”

The filthy profit-driven corruption manifests through the 49 million Americans taking a psychiatric drug. Insurance companies have psychiatrists wrapped around their finger, pressuring unnecessary prescriptions and labeling patients with disorders they may not ever have. Everyone is bound to experience a symptom of depression or anxiety in their lifetime, however, not everyone needs to be on Prozac. When it comes to teens, psychological treatment should only resort to medication in extreme cases. By drugging up vulnerable teens, the symptoms of the disorder are being treated, yet the original problem remains. It’s a lot like when your shoe falls apart and you cover the hole with duct tape. No matter how much duct tape you put on, the shoe still has a hole in it, and the duct tape doesn’t do anything except hide that.

Corruption in the psychiatric system can be addressed with legislation. To avoid inappropriate prescribing, the FDA needs to enact tighter requirements for prescriptions drugs – currently, any FDA approved drug may be prescribed by a licensed doctor for anything.

Americans need to face the raw facts. Psychiatry is corrupted. Depression is not a phase, eating disorders aren’t joke material, and schizophrenia does not make someone crazy. Bad things will happen. There will be another school shooting. Kids are going to keep killing themselves. Someone you know might develop a disorder, whether it’s your brother or your own child. There is no pretty way to put it. However, as a country, we need to start working to at least improve statistics surrounding mental health. If adolescents with mental health issues were treated more effectively, America would see fewer headlines about mental illness gone wrong. We can keep pointing fingers at the parents who must have raised them wrong, the doctors who over-drug the nut cases, or the children who need to act more normal, but in reality, voting and pushing for legislation and eliminating the social stigma are what we can do on a day-to-day basis to keep adolescents from falling through the system’s cracks.

~Abby Seitz, sports director

The price to play: the cost of high school sports on the rise

Team jackets. County activity fee. Mandatory team field trip. New cleats. In a time of economic hardships, the cost of playing a high school sport is getting steeper every season. Equipment has gotten more expensive in the last decade, sports funding is being cut by the school and the Fauquier County activity fee has increased $10 in the last year, from $50 to $60. Sports teams can also require athletes to purchase mandatory apparel and equipment. However, while activities such as academic team and one-act theater competitions are regulated by the Virginia High School League (VHSL), participating students don’t have to pay a dime to participate. The graphic below shows the costs of playing different sports through the school, as well as marching band.

~Abby Seitz, sports director

CORRECTION: wrestling should be represented as “mandatory”, rather than optional