Tag Archives: viewpoint

Trails lead to revelation, independence is key

From freshman to senior year, high school has been the best and the worst years of my life so far.
In the beginning, people told me that by senior year, I would have a solid group of friends and a happy head on my shoulders. As freshman year cruised along, I already felt comfortable with the friends that I’d made so quickly. I had an idea of what I wanted to do with my life. Most of all, I was happy. I walked to and from school and was amused by the gang of smokers that would lurk at the base of the “black path.” Little things didn’t bother me. I felt that I already had it all figured out.
The onset of sophomore year was something I was completely unprepared for. In middle school, even if I didn’t have classes with my friends, I still saw them often. This was different. The pals that I had had as of freshmen year were now nowhere to be found in the spacious new building. In addition, I was left in the dust of the iPhone craze, meaning that my friends no longer existed in my life at all, not even virtually. Nowadays, I can keep in touch with the people that I don’t see in person through the convenience of iMessage and Twitter, but sophomore year, my friends dropped like flies. I did manage to introduce myself to other people, but due to conflicting interests and schedules, I barely kept in contact with anyone.
By junior year, I started associating with people differently. I no longer expected anyone to become close with me, so I treated most people as acquaintances. With a grand total of three boyfriends coming in and out of my life during my last two years of high school, I kept myself occupied in relationships without the omnipresence of friendships. Junior year was also academically difficult, but unlike in previous years, I didn’t really mind. The extra work kept me occupied, and that willingness to tackle the tasks I was given continued on into my senior year—that is, until a lonely late autumn.
November, 2015, was probably the worst month of my life so far. I hit rock bottom in several aspects of my life; the comedic television show Parks and Recreation kept my spirits from lagging too heavily. It sounds sad, I know, but in the end, it was the month of high school that shaped my character the most. November, 2015, taught me how to continue to thrive in high school entirely on my own despite an incredible lack of socialization in my classes. I came home every day to a happy greeting from a loving dog; I told my parents all about my days in detail. All in all, I found some of the sweetest comfort in simply being at home and by myself or with my family. In December, I went to Canada with lots of kids from schools all around Northern Virginia, and it was the last big group experience I allowed myself to have for a while. Developing my independence was critical to the happiness that I possess now, and it will continue to carry me into college where it will likely become even more important.
So, here I am today amidst a chilly and rainy May. I’m taking life as it comes and enjoying my final days as a real kid. The weather, I feel, is symbolic—it demonstrates that high school was hard for me. The feeling of being in and out of a mental fog was always prevalent. But did I mention that I love the rain? It’s so refreshing. It washes away the impurities of the world and encourages us to embrace a new tomorrow. Despite all of the little bad things (and the bigger bad things, yes) that I stumbled upon in the past four years, there was so much good to be found just by picking myself back up. I may not have established a single solid group of friends, but I’m thankful for the ones that came and went, as well as the few that stuck around. In the end, what I did establish were my own roots within myself. Thank you, Fauquier. I didn’t plan on missing you as much as I know I will.

~claire shifflett, staff reporter

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Viewpoint: Think twice before you pop this pill

The birth control pill is the most popular method of contraception on the market. According studies done by Guttmacher Institute, 82 percent of all sexually active teenage girls take the pill.

Currently, 16 million American women use the pill; 150 million women worldwide take it, and it fuels a $2.8 billion industry. Birth control opened up the doors of sexual revolution more than 30 years ago, allowing women to freely explore sex without having to worry about unwanted pregnancies. But years later, complications of the pill surfaced. Although people make their own decisions about their bodies, they should be aware of the health problems associated with this form of birth control.

Not everyone who takes the pill is sexually active; it is used for acne treatments, endometriosis, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. But for girls who take the pill to avoid becoming pregnant, the side effects include weight gain, tender breasts, and mood swings. The mood swings occur because the pill provides high levels of estrogen to fool a girl’s system into thinking it’s pregnant, preventing conception. The pill can be dangerous if taken for years on end, without letting the body take a break from the estrogen spike. A woman’s natural cycle has continuous levels of rising and falling estrogen intensities and progesterone. Teenagers who start taking the pill don’t just take it temporarily; they may continue to take them until they are ready to become pregnant, which may not happen for years.
Although the risks of endometrial and ovarian cancer appear to be reduced with the use of oral contraceptives, users face an increased risk of liver, cervical, and breast cancer if it is taken long term, and yeast overgrowth can lead to several complications, according to a study by Women’s Health Connection. The pill increases the risk of gall bladder disease, heart attack, and strokes. The risk cervical cancer rises steadily the longer a woman takes the pill, especially for more than five years. Women who start taking birth control pills in high school have a higher risk of breast cancer than those who start when they are older.
The chances of getting a deadly blood clot are doubled when taking new types of the pill, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal. The higher the dose of estrogen, the higher the risk of blood clots. Companies and doctors promote the pill as a safe and efficient medication to prevent pregnancy, but users risk possible long term complications.

Sexually active girls use the pill because it’s so convenient and easy. But the birth control pill has only a 91 percent success rate, while other alternatives offer up to 99 percent. Other options that are safe and highly effective include male and female condoms, diaphragms, and spermicides. All are proven to work and not cause long-term health risks. The birth control pill also doesn’t prevent STD’s, compared to condoms, which do. The APA (American Association of Pediatrics) recommends teens use certain methods, like condoms, to prevent STDs.

Before you decide to become sexually active in the first place, think about waiting to have sex. Accidental teen pregnancy has devastating consequences. Studies done by Smith College and YWCA of Western Massachusetts show that an unplanned teenage pregnancy is damaging, emotionally and physically. Two out of three pregnant teenagers drop out of school, and seven out of 10 girls don’t even get medical care, like going to a doctor or clinic, within the first three months of getting pregnant.

Teenagers, especially in high school, are going through hormonal changes and mood swings already because of the physical and mental development from being dependent to becoming a self-sufficient young adult. Young people don’t need more emotional and mental stress added to their lives by taking medications to order to have an active sex life.

~julia sexton, co-features director

Syrian refugee crisis calls for compassion

Following attacks in France that left 130 dead, U.S. lawmakers are responding by making it harder for the 10,000 Syrian refugees that America promised to accept to enter the country. With more than half of the nation’s governors refusing to accept refugees into their respective states, the United States has traded compassion for suspicion, further victimizing the thousands of people fleeing from their war-torn country. The motivation? Fear and Islamophobia.

If the United States ultimately decides to bar Syrian refugees from entering the nation, we may as well dismantle the Statue of Liberty and send her back to France (which is still accepting 30,000 refugees, in spite of the attacks). Turning away refugees is spitting on the country’s most valued principles. These people aren’t trying to infiltrate our nation; they’re fleeing tyranny and terror, caught between an oppressive government and ISIS.  Some of those who oppose giving refuge to Syrians seem to have no empathy for Muslims and to consider Islam synonymous with terrorism. However, the majority of ISIS’s victims are Muslims who do not accept ISIS’s extreme and violent doctrine, according to the United Nations.

The concern over security is understandable, and definitely shouldn’t be overlooked. A forged Syrian passport was found on the body of one of the Paris terrorists, who had used the documents to enter Greece. Seven thousand refugees enter Greece every day, and the country simply can’t handle the influx of people. However, the United States can. A thorough vetting process, which can take 18 to 24 months and includes screening from various agencies, is already in place. So, when government officials and public figures claim that the United States has no way of telling who is a refugee and who is a potential threat, sympathetic citizens should not be silent. Are we willing to portray ourselves as incompetent just so we don’t have to face these scary Syrian widows, orphans, and refugees?

We cannot allow fear and ignorance to impede our better judgement and moral standards. GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson has referred to Syrian refugees as “rabid dogs,” and after visiting a refugee camp in Jordan, referred to the facilities—and let’s remember that these people are living in tents, with no electricity and little security—as being “really quite nice.” Moreover, he was confused upon learning that refugees would rather return to their home countries than come to America. Of course they would! But their homes are currently being ravaged by a militant fundamentalist group with an affinity for beheadings. The responses from fellow candidates Jeb Bush and Donald Trump have been just as thickheaded, with Bush advocating allowing only Christian refugees to enter, and Trump calling for banning all Muslims from entering the country.

Have we learned nothing from the past? America didn’t allow Jewish refugees into the country during World War II because people feared dangerous ideologies and Communist saboteurs. Today we find that inaction deplorable. Do we wish to look back on our decisions today with the same shame? Have the Japanese internment camps taught us nothing about what happens when fear overshadows our conscience? Time and time again, prejudice presides over sympathy. Let’s not allow it to happen this time.

It’s past time that America—a supposed beacon of freedom and independence—learns the meaning of its own virtues and rejects fear-mongering. We have the means to help refugees, and the power and resources to keep ourselves safe in this unsafe world. If the United States won’t help those suffering underneath the fist of tyranny, perhaps it’s time we rethink that whole “liberty and justice for all” thing.

~lana heltzel, online editor

Cultural appropriation is heritage theft

How would you feel if a part of your culture was stripped of its significance and sold as a fashion statement? When celebrities steal an aspect of an ethnic group’s culture, such as dreadlocks, bindis, and hijabs. they are guilty of cultural appropriation. A-listers, including the Kardashians, Katy Perry, and Selena Gomez, have been sporting their ignorance in fashion and music videos, using other culture’s traditions while ignoring the cultural significance behind them.

What’s the problem with white people wearing dreadlocks and cornrows? Some say that borrowing hairstyles isn’t cultural appropriation and that they’re fair game. However, the history of dreadlocks goes back to the Hindu and the Rastafarian cultures. Thanks to Bob Marley many associate it with smoking weed and listening to reggae music—basically teenage rebellion. In the Rastafarian culture dreadlocks were worn by priests who devote themselves to their deity and by those who take a vow of purity and follow spiritual laws. According to “White People, Dreadlocks and Cultural Appropriation” on www.theliberatedmind.com, nobody can appreciate the spiritual and historical meaning of dreadlocks when they’re used simply as a way to be defiant.

The first case of a mainstream actress wearing traditionally black hairstyles was Bo Derek in the movie 10. Before this, cornrows were seen on characters living in the ghetto, but once Derek appropriated them, they were suddenly all the rage; the Kardashian/Jenner clan follow along.

Bindis are used in different cultures to represent the sixth charka, showing that a woman is married; in Southern India, a black bindi is worn by a young, unmarried woman to ward off bad luck. The bindi is worn between the eyebrows, an important nerve center, to keep the nerves cool and conserve the person’s energy.

But when Selena Gomez wore the bindi in performances of “Come and Get It,” she received a backlash from the Hindu groups objecting to her sensual and commercial exploitation of the symbol. Her response? She posted a picture of her in a bindi on Instagram with the caption “Sari, not sari.” As if people didn’t have enough reason to be irritated by her…

Headdresses have been a part of the Native American culture for centuries; those who wear them, usually chiefs and warriors, are highly respected in their community. Every feather in the headdress represents a courageous act, followed by fasting. The right to wear a headdress is one of the highest honors that a man achieves. Women, however, did not participate in this tradition, much less want-to-be hipsters trying to look cute at Coachella.

Some might think that culture appropriation isn’t a big deal, and that culture is meant to be shared. However there’s a difference between appreciating a culture and wanting to learn more about it, and taking it as your own and disrespecting it. When a cultural emblem is adapted by a celebrity who wants to start the next trend, it shows disrespect to the cultural meaning and religious significance of the tradition. A celebrity can take his or her “costume” off at the end of the day and not have to face the hardship and discrimination people who are part of the tradition have suffered. They can go back on their merry way, cashing in on a “trend” while looking for the next one.

There’s nothing wrong with being interested in another group’s culture and wanting to learn more, but don’t try to pull it off as your own.

~erica gudino, viewpoint director

Black Friday creates culture of greed

It’s terribly ironic that Black Friday, a day characterized by unconstrained greed where people will actually kill for a good deal, immediately follows Thanksgiving (you know, a day in which you give thanks for what you have).

This new-age tradition began in the early 2000s, and the name refers to retailers turning a profit, or being “in the black.” Heralding the beginning of the holiday shopping season, people forego a good night’s rest and the extolled Thanksgiving family time to camp outside of Target in order to grab that plasma screen TV before the onslaught of old ladies with shopping carts runs them over.

It’s too easy to mock those willing to sell their souls for a better price, but it truly belies a bigger problem—in this day and age, we always want more. While one can argue it’s merely the human condition, Black Friday propagates and encapsulates greed, both corporate and consumer. We trash perfectly good iPhones as soon as the new one comes out. Christmas advertisements are aired in autumn to instill the need to spend in buyers—and quite honestly, it’s exhausting. It seems as if the corporate impulse to amass money is unassailable and never-ending, even when the burden falls on its workers. Some companies are moving back the start of Black Friday back to Thanksgiving (in spite of the fact that it isn’t even Friday), forcing employees to come in on a day that they should rightfully have off, in order to be open during the midnight rush.

Black Friday makes a mockery of everything Thanksgiving (and by extension, the holiday season) is supposed to stand for. Yeah, buying a Playstation for a family member—and at a decent price, no less!—is all good and fine. But there’s something unwholesome about sacrificing time with those you care about for material possessions.

And yet there’s hope. Outdoor gear retailer REI has announced that, not only will it be closed on Black Friday, but also that it will be a paid vacation day for all employees. The decision is part of their #OptOutside campaign promoting the idea that customers should spend time outside instead of in a line.

Still desperate for that deal? Hey, there’s always Cyber Monday. Just don’t play the fool who sits in a lawn chair waiting for Best Buy to open its doors in the middle of the night.

~lana heltzel, online editor

Journalism shapes high school experience

In my four years at FHS, I found mentors that inspired and motivated me all across the range of subjects I took. However ultimately, I would find my niche in the journalism room. As a sophomore and the new kid on staff, I witnessed the most unique group of students I had ever seen together in one room. This group was diverse, spanning in social groups and ideals. What struck me was that they were together in their differences, talking about weird and interesting things—each comfortable having something to say. They were eccentric and passionate and intimidating in a way I had not experienced. I wanted to be a part of it—I saw in their diversity a kind of team I could fit into.

This group of people changed from semester to semester and from year to year. However, the diversity, the eccentricity, and what they represented never went away. The journalism program at FHS gave me a voice and introduced me to passion. I made friendships with people I would not have otherwise had, and I had a consistent escape every third block for seven semesters. In this class I fell in love with reporting and writing stories and opinion pieces, with designing pages and with journalism as an industry. As a senior I was given the opportunity to practice being a leader. I was instilled with journalistic values and knew the power of words. I found that I love writing about my peers and topics concerning them. I learned that as students, we have a voice unlike anyone else’s. I found my true passion for journalism lies in the stories that interest and challenge me, and that can make a difference.

The administration’s censorship of my article about dabbing was ironically, in some ways, a blessing. Not only did I learn my rights (yes, I have rights) I learned just how political the world is. I learned how much I believe in free speech and the significance of fighting for it. In my years on the journalism staff I have written about why the morning after pill should be available to young women and about rape culture. I have written about teen stress, teen graffiti, teen’s views on tattoos and piercings, and the effects of tanning salons on young people. Other students may find themselves on a field, or in a physics class, but I found myself in journalism, writing these stories.

What is most shocking to me is that it was educators in positions of authority who suppressed my speech and tried to take the essence of what I found in myself and in the industry, away from me and every other student journalist. In my years in the Fauquier County school system, many of my teachers preached thinking outside the box and the importance of human rights. They also taught me to stand up for what I believe in. The administration at FHS praises the journalism program that allows students to learn and practice real journalism, express viewpoints, and write about matters that concern and are of importance to students. But journalistic fairness and balance only is allowed as long as it is in agreement with the administration’s message.

I covered student misuse of social media and technology during school hours that sparked “FHS fight week” and was praised for practicing good journalism. It was entirely different when I wrote about a drug trend amongst high school students, a topic the administration does not want the student body to know about. Once a source says something that contradicts the administration’s message, that source, or the journalist writing the story, will be silenced. This lack of journalistic integrity contradicts everything that I was taught to believe in. More than anything, this disappointed me and shattered the image I had of the school system I grew up in.

I’m saddened that the administration thinks we are naive children who need to be shielded from the truth. I’m saddened the administration doesn’t believe in the importance of the student voice. However, the more the administration treated me like my convictions and thoughts were infantile, the stronger I became as a person. People in authority can sometimes be very wrong, and that’s life. Young people have amazing brains and amazing thoughts, and they have the capability of learning from and rising above the bad examples. This small town has taught me much about the larger world around me.

From this experience, I take away a thicker skin and even greater motivation to become the reporter that makes a difference with my stories, or whatever I may end up doing. I have a greater appreciation for knowledge and what it offers people. I feel so lucky to have received a spectrum of experiences in my high school journalism room that I can take with me throughout my life.

~SaraRose Martin, co editor-in-chief

ALS ice bucket challenge promotes tentative awareness

The ALS ice bucket challenge has been sweeping the nation for over a month. The idea is to dump a bucket of freezing ice water over one’s head and then nominate or challenge friends, family, or co-workers to do the same. After the new group is nominated, they have 24 hours to either complete the challenge or donate $100 to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association.

The trend started when golfer Charles Kennedy, whose cousin suffers from ALS, completed the challenge and decided the money raised should go towards fighting ALS. The challenge spread by social media before it came to former Boston College baseball star Pete Frates who was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 27 in March, 2012. Frates called out multiple celebrities, including Tom Brady, and other Boston athletes. The challenge then went viral. LeBron James, Kevin Hart, and Tom Cruise all participated and chipped in. The fad swept the nation on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Vine. But that’s exactly what it is, a fad. And that’s the problem.

Kony 2012

The video Kony 2012, produced by Invisible Children, was released in March, 2012. War criminal Joseph Kony became infamous due to his abduction of children to become sex slaves and soldiers. The video received nearly 100 million views and over one million “likes” on YouTube. But as the views began to rise, the focus started to shift from Kony to Invisible Children, especially after Invisible Children co-founder, Jason Russell, was seen naked outside his home in San Diego, California, spewing f-bombs and raging about the iPhone. By April, 2012, the movement to capture Kony had waned significantly. Invisible Children attempted to mend critics’ hearts by releasing a second video with a clearer objective, but the damage was done. The momentum that Invisible Children once had disappeared, while Kony still roams in Uganda with the Lord’s Resistance Army and tens of thousands of captured children.

Bring Back Our Girls

On April 15, 2014, a convoy of terrorists rolled into a small town in northern Nigeria and abducted nearly 300 high school girls age 15 to 18. The terrorist group, Boko Haram, opposes western education, as well as the education of women, and abducted the girls as punishment. People began to use the phrase “Bring Back Our Girls” on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Even the first lady Michelle Obama participated by posting a famous picture with the phrase written on a piece of paper. The United States sent troops to Nigeria and used surveillance planes to look for the women. But after a few short weeks, the powerful phrase fell out of use. What seemed like great activism turned to apathy. The world became indifferent and over 200 women are still missing.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The ice bucket challenge is the current trend that narcissistic social media participants are using for likes, favorites, and retweets. The majority of participants aren’t even aware of what ALS is, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The disease affects cells of the brain and spin, slowly decreasing a patient’s ability to use his or her muscles. Soon after diagnosis, the patient has trouble walking, and as the atrophy progresses, victims begin having trouble speaking or eating. The disease is not curable, and respiratory failure eventually occurs. While it lasts, the Ice Bucket Challenge is undoubtedly a great thing for ALS. It’s clean, it’s fun, and it has raised awareness significantly. The donations have grown to over 15 million. Just like previous trends, however, the participants are often slacktivists who complete their “obligations” to receive a feel-good experience about this social cause without actually making much difference. The ice bucket challenge will fade, but the serious illness that is ALS will remain.

~Gavin Cranford, co-editor-in-chief