Episcopal African Heritage Club
Congratulations to four members of the Episcopal African Heritage Club! A team of students including Madi Bell, Zykia Howard, Justin Thompson and Serena Thompson recently placed first in the 25th Annual Collegiate Black History Quiz Bowl hosted by the Southern University Ag Center and the College of Agriculture.
River Road Chapter of National Charity League
The Episcopal robotics team had a great showing at the recent Rock City Regional competition in Little Rock. Students did a great job of scouting the competition and making improvements to the robot with each match. The group performed well in qualifying matches and was even chosen by another team to be a part of an alliance in the quarterfinals.
District Literary Rally Winners
Congratulations to Katie Knight! Katie earned second place in the Literary Rally's art competition. Her piece, entitled Hand with Ice Cube, received recognition in Category III 2D Color: Drawing, Print-Making, Photography and Digital Art. The art exhibit is a district only event unique to the Southeast Louisiana District Literary Rally.
Congratulations to the Episcopal District Literary Rally winners!
Students qualifying for District and State and earning a Southeastern Scholarship are:
Ajit Alapati – Principles of Business
Abhay Basireddy – Advanced Math – Pre Calculus
Clay Burton – Calculus I
James Christian – Advanced Math – Functions and Statistics
Eugene Jiang – Algebra II
Celia Kiesel - Civics
Joy Lee – Biology I
Carter McLean – Spanish II
Alex Nelson - Chemistry
Adam Reid - Physics
Bethany Reid – Spanish IV
Justin Thompson – French III
Gracie Veillon – Calculus II
National Essay Contest Winner
Episcopal's gold and blue mock trial teams faced tough competition at the recent regional mock trial event. Congratulations on a great showing! Read more about the event here.
National Classical Etymology Exam
Eight students from Episcopal recently earned recognition on the National Classical Etymology Exam (NCEE). Congratulations to the following students:
The NCEE, which was administered in October by the National Junior Classical League, is based on English vocabulary words that are derived from Latin and Greek with an emphasis on academic and SAT vocabulary words. The contest measures a student’s mastery of Latin and Greek derivatives.
Upper School students recently hosted the sixth annual LAUNCH Day to celebrate learning. The student presentations were entertaining and impressive. Visit the LAUNCH webpage to watch the student presentations.
After a long day on the job, running errands or even just fighting Baton Rouge traffic, many of us can’t wait to return to our home to relax and unwind. Home. It is the place where children take their first steps, where teens pin a corsage on their first date and where families simply enjoy time together. Home represents a larger sense of community. Home is hope. Home can provide strength, stability and self-reliance. But what if owning a home is out of reach?
According to the US Census Bureau, 58.8% of homes in Baton Rouge are owner-occupied. Nationally, that number is 64.4%. This means many local residents don’t have that oasis to call their own. For the past 17 years, Episcopal students and faculty have been working with Habitat for Humanity of Baton Rouge to boost homeownership in the local community and help more families realize the dream of having a place to call their own.
The annual Habitat Youth Build is supported by Episcopal, Catholic High School and St. Joseph’s Academy and sponsored by the Albemarle Foundation. Lynn Clark, Habitat Executive Director, says since 2001 students and faculty have built 19 homes for area residents. “It’s amazing to witness the generosity and hard work of the students, teachers and faculty as they come together to make a difference in the life of a deserving local family,” says Clark.
The annual Habitat build is Episcopal’s largest service learning project every year. Service Learning Center Director Matt Holt says annually more than 100 students contribute hundreds of hours of service to the effort. In addition, numerous faculty and staff members help organize the shifts in advance of the build days and spend time on site chaperoning student activities. Holt says students are not there to observe. Students are donating sweat equity as they install siding, framing and plywood. They also put in windows, cabinetry and landscaping. While the thought of such physical work may intimidate some, Holt says everyone who participates walks away with a sense of accomplishment and pride. “There’s nothing more meaningful than helping someone achieve the dream of homeownership,” says Holt. “It is a pleasure to share this experience with our students.” The significance of building these homes is not lost on the student builders.
“The act of building a house is both physical and metaphorical - we are not only literally raising the walls on a structure that will eventually be a house, but we are also metaphorically creating a new life, a new beginning, for someone,” says senior Alyssa Macaluso, who appreciated the opportunity to be stretched beyond her comfort zone. “I smashed more than my fair share of fingers, bent more than a few nails, but it’s an experience that I hope I have the ability to repeat again. Habitat’s an amazing opportunity, at any point - from raising the walls to putting up siding and painting. In addition, the experience of having a future homeowner work alongside you as the house comes together is both beautiful and precious.”
Aside from lessons on the proper way to frame up a window or how to cut in with a paint brush, Youth Build students are also learning what it means to help their neighbor. “These students learn firsthand about poverty, its effects, and the need for affordable housing,” says Clark. “They are uplifting our community one family at a time.”
“Working for habitat is probably one of the most demanding service projects that the Center for Service Learning sponsors,” says senior Douglas Robins. “To me, however, it is the most rewarding.” Robins recognizes the importance of creating a home for families, where they can come together, relax and escape the stresses of the day. “When we think about what a home is in this way, the work that we are doing with habitat is more than just building a place for people to sleep. We are building a set for a family to live out their lives. Like I said, Habitat is hard work. But what brought me back and what will continue to bring me back is that through building a home, I am not just building a structure, but I am building a future. A future for all the people who will lay their heads on the pillows for this family and for the families who inhabit it for years to come.”
Habitat of Baton Rouge has built or rehabbed 353 homes in the local community. At each build site, current and future homeowners work side-by-side with volunteers, with each homeowner completing 255 hours of their own sweat equity. These homeowners purchase their homes with an affordable, no-interest mortgage. In addition, Habitat provides the homeowners financial literacy classes to help them budget and manage their finances so that they can sustain their home for years to come. Clark says all of this is critical for providing more families a safe and stable home. She says families who own their own home flourish, build wealth and break the cycle of poverty. High homeownership rates have also been shown to boost a community’s overall home values, lower crime rates and improve school systems.
Episcopal senior Emily White recognized the impact to the community as she arrived at the build site. “I learned that the row of houses leading up to the one we were working on were all Habitat Houses! That’s awesome,” she says. “I hope the owner of the house enjoys her home and I really want to see the finished product of this project.”
Students and faculty are able to make such an impact in just four weekends. Senior Pierson Luscy says the time spent was well worth it. “Before doing this service, I was looking for a job to attend on my weekends or as much as I could, but after going through the experiences, I dealt with, being great people and enthusiastic attitudes, I am planning on shortly to make Habitat for Humanity apart of my weekly routine” he says. “For the first time in a very long time, I felt like I did something productive.”
Seeing the students’ passion and excitement for helping a neighbor is rewarding for the Episcopal faculty and staff who volunteer their time. “In working with Habitat, I see Episcopal students at their best – compassionate, cooperative, flexible, funny,” says Writing Center Director Dr. Alan Newton. “They’re also handy with a paintbrush or a hammer.” Longtime Habitat supporter Sarah Pulliam agrees. “This is one of the most worthwhile things we do with the kids,” she says reflecting on the sense of accomplishment students and faculty feel after working a shift on site.
After the hammering and painting has stopped later this month, a Baton Rouge mom and her two daughters will have their own home. They will cook in their own kitchen. They will take pride in making the space their own. We are proud of the all of the students and volunteers who supported this effort to make their dream a reality.
A government that reads its citizens’ emails, tracks its citizens’ movements, and listens to conversations of citizens in their homes was once the subject of science fiction novels. That such a society would exist in the democracy of America that was founded on principles of freedom and natural rights was unimaginable. But recent developments in technology that is in the hands of most Americans on a daily basis have made almost constant surveillance readily available to the government and to large companies. The founding fathers of the United States could never have envisioned the issues created by modern technology and terrorism.
Mass surveillance is not high on the list of concerns for the average American. Most adults are more concerned with the highly politicized nature of the government, the government shutdown, or the next big election. Perhaps following Edward Snowden’s reveal of the vast extent of government surveillance, people became more aware of the ways it can be used unethically. But many Americans believe that if “I have nothing to hide, I have nothing to fear” and do not consider the possibility that the government may use mass surveillance to invade their personal privacy. Now more than ever, the discussion of surveillance needs to be happening in our homes.
When our country was formed, the founding fathers wrestled with balancing the rights of the people with the need for a strong central government. Their solution was to create an amendment to the Constitution that protected American citizens from government involvement in their lives. We know this today as the Fourth Amendment. While the right to privacy is not specifically set forth in the Constitution, it is inferred from the Fourth Amendment in combination with elements of the First, Third, and Fifth Amendments. Case law including Roe v. Wade, Katz v. United States, and Carpenter v. United States have also contributed to the development of the right to privacy.
How does this right relate to technology? Technology is a normal part of the daily lives of most Americans. Most of us have cell phones, and many of us use features on our phones that can be used to place us at a particular location at a certain time (i.e. Find my Friends or Snapchat’s Snapmaps feature). Similarly, GPS devices can be found in modern cars. Many people have laptops with webcams or use home assistant devices like Alexa or Google Home. Theoretically, the government can access those devices to obtain information about Americans through two important laws: the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (USA PATRIOT Act).
FISA establishes the protocol for the surveillance of foreign intelligence suspected of espionage or terrorism when that person is located outside of the United States. The PATRIOT Act, passed just 45 days after 9/11, allows for surveillance of both foreign and domestic suspected terrorists. These laws give the government vast powers with the potential for widespread and unethical violations of the privacy rights of Americans because they allow for surveillance not only of suspected terrorists, but also of people with remote connections to suspected terrorists.
To comprehend the privacy debate, it is important to understand the reason the government needs to access information of its citizens. National security became a priority following 9/11 and the War on Terror. In order to protect its citizens, the government has the power to use technology to access certain communications for the purposes of stopping terrorist acts before they happen. One way the government does this is to surveil and collect communications of suspected terrorists by accessing their cell phone records, bank records, GPS location, emails, medical records, etc. Many Americans feel that such surveillance is acceptable if it could prevent another 9/11, a school shooting, or some other terrorist attack. While this point of view is certainly warranted, we must be careful to avoid the proverbial “slippery slope” that could lead to even more amplified government surveillance as has been seen in Big Brother-esque societies like China, Singapore, and India, and even in western cultures such as Great Britain, France, Switzerland, and Germany.
China has developed frighteningly invasive technology to monitor the actions of its citizens. They have recently created a new robotic Dove that has the capability to blend into the environment because it looks and acts exactly like a bird flying in the sky. These Doves are fitted with high definition cameras, GPS antennas, and a flight control system, and they are able to climb, dive, flap their wings, and turn in the air. Because they look like real birds, they are able to evade both human detection and radar. They can fly up to 25 miles per hour for 30 minutes. The Doves have been used to surveil the Chinese people in provinces known for displaying anti-Chinese sentiment. The Chinese also have new facial recognition technology that scans the public for criminals. Huge outdoor screens at busy intersections display lawbreakers, including those guilty of minor crimes such as jay-walking, and they even list the names and show the faces of those that have not paid their debts. Chinese law enforcement is testing a new sunglass surveillance program that uses technological glasses to pick individuals out of a crowd. If the face or information matches a suspected criminal, police seize the person then and there.
Based on information gained from surveillance, the Chinese government arrests people that are deemed to be a threat to the government, even if they are not suspected of committing a crime. They are able to get away with this extreme extension of government surveillance because it is under the guise of preventing Islamic extremism and terrorism, much like the rationale of the American government.
Alarmingly, surveillance laws and technology similar to those found in Asia and Europe have made their way to the United States. Amazon’s Rekognition program, which allows photos and videos to be uploaded to Amazon and compared to facial scans from a live camera feed, has been used by law enforcement in Orlando and Oregon. Rekognition can identify over 100 faces in a crowd by just comparing photos to the real feed. There are undoubtedly some benefits to these technologies, but they can easily be used to target minorities, immigrants, protesters, and other groups.
While in some cases surveillance is seemingly beneficial in that it can lead to the arrest of criminals, it is crucial to understand that the government can use surveillance for sinister purposes. It is also critical to consider the limitless power that the government could gain over its citizens through surveillance that could be used to thwart fundamental principles of American ideology. If the government can use its surveillance powers to stop evil such as terrorism, it can also use the same powers to commit evil. In its most basic form, such powers could easily allow for the regulation of speech or press, to deny rights based on race or religion, or to silence critics of the government. This is not so far-fetched an idea to imagine in the current political climate. Those that believe such a society could never exist in America need to think again. It is imperative to understand the balance required between the need for protection against foreign terrorist threats and the inherent right to privacy.
If you own a smartphone, a home assistant device, or a laptop, you could be the subject of surveillance. These devices can easily be accessed by the government and essentially used to follow your every move. While this is cause for concern for many privacy advocates, it is not realistic to expect modern Americans to give up their cell phones or go off the grid. But you should be aware — be aware of what you say in your home, be aware of what you type on your phone, and be aware of how you act around your technology — you never really know who is watching.
David Whitehurst is a senior in his seventh year at Episcopal and a graduate of St. James Episcopal Day School. He is a captain and varsity runner on the Episcopal cross country team and a state champion track athlete. David became interested in the Constitution and technology through his AP Government class, and his thesis evolved to focus primarily on the right to privacy. David is the owner of a smartphone, a laptop, and an Alexa device.
My parents used to monitor my video gaming pretty heavily. Every good parent worries about exposing their kids to violence too early. If a game had a drop of blood, I couldn’t play it until I was twelve. So I sweat bullets as I shot at aliens spewing green blood when I played “Halo 3” at a friend’s house when I was ten. But when I was twelve, I was allowed to play “Team Fortress 2,” a multiplayer game sporting gentle violence - little enough to pass their test while entertaining my increasingly maturing interest. My parents’ focus was on the modest violence, but something far more dangerous slipped under their radar: the economic side.
In a time where people have an increasingly high digital presence from a young age, many children seek knowledge online, usually starting with math and spelling games. But many, like my young nerdy friends and I, progress to more complex lessons, whether knowingly or not. Often parents and/or schools teach children the value of money in a straightforward way. Whether through a chore system at home or some fake currency in exchange for privileges at school, a variety of controlled environments have been used to instill good economic habits in kids. They are physically handed money for their work, and they physically hand it back when they want to exchange it for something else. Children see that it is limited and represents a hard day’s work. However, due to a variety of institutions in video games like “Team Fortress 2” (TF2), “Counter Strike: Global Offensive” (CS:GO), “Fortnite” (the forbidden one), and many others, young gamers (especially those between the ages of 12-16) learn from distorted systems that ultimately harm their understanding of the economy and teach poor economic habits.
The most apparent layer of deception that often leads kids and adults alike down the rabbit hole of frivolous spending is a phenomenon called “invisible money.” Kids observe this phenomenon every time they go to the store and see their parent swipe their credit card to pay for groceries. Similarly, when money is used to in TF2, in the same way that many kids find it difficult to equate a piece of plastic with actual money, the tradable flashy cosmetic items in “Team Fortress 2” and “CS:GO” hold real monetary values, some ranging to thousands of dollars. Part of the economic crash in the early 2000s is attributable to the inability to identify credit cards and other online transactions as physical exchanges of currencies. Not even adults are immune to this phenomenon, and kids certainly are no exception when money goes even further from its true form, from credit card to virtual cosmetic.
Across various games and formats, fostering positive economic morality of young gamers is also in question. Though the numbers for this are a bit more ambiguous, scamming other players for their hard-earned loot in the name of making a quick buck is far too common. The community of traders in TF2 is more of a cutthroat bazaar of individuals, each trying to trick each other for profit than a supportive community enjoying the game. A far more tangible phenomenon is outright gambling in several games. The mechanisms mimic those of slot machines, reward players rarely (similar to casinos), and potentially instill the same addictive habits. The odds of children becoming frivolous spenders from playing these games are certainly higher than them becoming violent maniacs. It’s easy to look at the surface of any game with a “T for teen” or higher rating and determine its appropriateness based on the amount of blood. It’s hard to look past what’s highlighted by the media and consider the gentler, arguably more harmful aspect of these games. Any way you cut it, video games rarely foster the knowledge and positive economic habits that people need before they merge into the workforce and grow up. The best thing society and parents can do is teach children in a safe, straightforward environment how the world really works so that they don’t learn it from a parallel yet severely distorted one online, like I did.
Taner Morgan is a senior at Episcopal and came from St. Luke’s as a freshman. He’s been playing video games like the ones discussed here and just about anything on the market since he was five, and they’ve influenced how he approaches the world, for better or for worse. In the case of shaping his economic habits, maybe for worse, as his thesis research follows. Taner is the captain of the wrestling team and has been wrestling for three years. He is also a part of the drum corps and co-president of film club. Taner plans to attend LSU Honors College and study mass communication.
Madeleine Cope, Senior Thesis Student and Dancer, compels us to get out from behind our desks and utilize movement in our learning experiences.
What does dance mean to us? Is it an art form, utilized for its expression and creativity? Is it an athletic form that can lead dancers down an elitist path as we see in reality competition shows? Or, is it an enjoyable activity pursued by people all around the country for sheer pleasure and enjoyment? Whether we know it or not, we witness dance more often than we think. From seeing it on TV, on the VPAC mainstage , or even at social events, we can all admit that dance is a platform for expression that has been an element of life for as long as we have known. Although we have seen dance via different mediums for ages, it seems as though we haven’t utilized dance for what all it can do for us. Recent research has shown that dance can have meaningful benefits outside of places like a stage or TV screen; in fact, it can be utilized in our daily lives during a school day for our academic success.
Cognitive psychology teaches us that to create long-term memories, we have to make our material and ideas personally meaningful to us. This is accomplished by associating knowledge with other concepts or activities we have experienced. Jane Bonbright, a researcher for the National Dance Education Organization, notes that retention can also be facilitated and catalyzed by incorporating more areas of the brain in the initial encoding process for establishing long-term memories. Because dance can combine all of these psychological concepts and provide as an active and engaging learning system for children, it has the ability to be a great device for not only teaching children of young ages but for establishing well-suited academic habits in its students. Although it may seem a bit hasty, or even a bit radical, we should start considering dance as a way to facilitate brain development and the creation of higher retention rates among young learners.
In Jamie Steele’s research study for the Journal of Dance Education, she focused on the academic success of a fifth-grade class learning about different means of energy through dance. Steele not only found that the students left the class with greater communication skills from the group assignment but the students were able to, “...explain (1) visually through diagrams, (2) kinesthetically through dances, (3) verbally through explanation, and (4) manually through a [hands on project]." In this sense, Steele discovered what researchers like Bonright have recently uncovered: that dance can combine many of the essential skills needed by modern young students to succeed, while also being able to allow children to learn via an active format that enables the brain to facilitate the creation of long-term memory.
Needless to say, dance has some untapped benefits for young learners that most of us did not even realize. Knowing this, we must question: why haven’t all schools utilized dance education or other active learning methods like it so that students may reap its benefits? While traditional learning methods are often effective, I argue that experimenting with the use of active learning systems, like dance, may allow students to reach an untapped potential that will enable them to have better academic success. As Dr. Adrienne Sansom writes, “[Dance] is a modality [that] helps us gain knowledge through the body and grasp the essence of learning from within, connecting to ourselves in the deepest, most direct ways.” If we take Dr. Sansom’s sentiment and learn to apply it to an upcoming generation of learners, not only will they be able to make deep connections to their content, but they may be able to see inward and discover the value of meaningful learning.
Madeleine Cope has been a student at Episcopal since Pre-K and is currently a high school senior. In addition to her involvement with the Honors Thesis program, Madeleine participates in Episcopal’s Dance Ensemble, acts as Co-Choreographer for Episcopal’s Lower and Middle School musical productions, participates in Episcopal theatre productions, and is a Math Tutor for Episcopal’s Math Center. Her thesis revolves around the concept of utilizing new education methods, especially those involving dance education and active learning environments.
Senior Thesis Student and Oboist, Lauren Smith, shares ideas from her thesis, arguing for more inclusive and diverse classical arts, which would allow all children to see themselves represented on the stage.
Music has the ability to touch the souls of individuals and move the masses. It has been at the center of social revolutions, and its captivating nature has withstood the test of time. We are fortunate here at Episcopal to have access to many art forms and opportunities. It was here where I first became a musician, picked up an instrument, and had the opportunity to join a musical ensemble.
A particular genre that has truly revolutionized almost all music that we hear today is classical music. Without it, the world would be quite a dull place. “Classical music” is a broad and insufficient term used to describe a plethora of music types, and sometimes we tend to forget that. Its elements exist in your favorite songs and movies, and surprisingly, it even played a tremendous role in the innovation of hip-hop and pop music.
The “orchestra hit” is one of the most used samples in pop and hip-hop music. Its sound takes the form of a musical bang that draws the audience in and helps drive the song’s beat. The orchestra hit was originally sampled in the early 1980s by Peter Vogel, the same person that created one of the first sampling and sequencing synthesizers in the mid-1970s. This sample was from Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird, which was originally scored in 1910. The particular moment in Firebird that the orchestra hit was sampled from was at the beginning of a scene called “Danse Infernale du Roi Kastchei.”
Though classical music may be everywhere, when it is performed in its traditional essence, it is quite exclusive. The full glory and splendor of classical music is not available for everyone to enjoy freely. There are a plethora of reasons supporting why classical music is indefinitely reserved for people of a certain demographic, but the stigmas attached to the music type as well as socioeconomic, historical, and psychological factors all play a role in why this art form is still so rooted in a traditionalistic mindset, despite the progressiveness of other art forms.
People love to have role models, especially when they look like us. Where the problem lies in classical music is that there are not enough role models for black and brown artists. Yes, there are some, but the amount is miniscule. In solely American orchestras as of 2016, less than 1.8% of participants were black and less than 2.5% were Hispanic. That amount is even less for ethnic participants when assessed on a global scale, especially considering that classical music, as most recognize it, is originally from the Eastern Hemisphere of the world, particularly Europe, although it has rhythmic and percussive influences as well as modal influences from Africa and Asia.
When I was much younger, I loved to watch performances of the Berlin Philharmonic, one of the world’s leading orchestras. The performances I watched on YouTube most definitely contributed to my ever-growing love for classical music. As much as I looked up to each and every performer, particularly the oboists and the conductors, I always found it difficult to truly see myself playing among them, let alone conducting the musicians, as an adult. I felt so distanced from the classical musicians that passionately played their instruments on my computer screen.
Yes, it was and is a dream of mine, but I never saw anyone else that looked like me to demonstrate that it was a legitimate possibility.
Classical music is expensive. Buying instruments (many of which cost thousands of dollars), the materials needed to play (e.g., reeds, ligatures, tools), and paying for lessons are some examples of the tedious expenses required to be considered as a classical instrumentalist. For musicians coming from underserved communities, which are oftentimes densely populated by people of color, receiving a musical education of the same caliber of their mostly white counterparts is especially difficult due to the prominent socioeconomic disadvantages.
As human beings, we all have preferences, whether implicit or explicit. When it comes to viewing performers on a stage, due to general social psychology that has been influenced and molded by history and racist justifications, if a ballet or symphony is being performed, the performers are expected to be white. So much so that the very principles of ballet performance are centered around identicality and the reference is a white-skinned, fairy-like performer. Even in symphonic performances, visual aesthetic preferences may lead people to expect a stage composed of similar looking people due to the art forms’ emphasis on symmetry and synchronization.
Diversifying the arts, specifically classical music is essential to its growth and ultimately its survival. The traditional aura surrounding classical music as it relates to what type of people are the dominant performers and observers is counterintuitive to the definition of art. Art is a “diverse” range of creative activities, but in classical art that is still performed today, the diversity element is inadequate. Diversifying classical music does not necessarily mean contemporizing the music itself, but rather taking measures to make it more inclusive for all individuals, especially because it is such a powerful medium of expression that can be life-changing for anybody no matter their skin color.
Lauren Smith has been an Episcopal student since Kindergarten, and she is currently a high school senior. She is a member of the Honors Thesis Program, and her thesis addresses the lack of representation in classical art forms, specifically in classical music and ballet, and how in order for the arts to progress, diversity is a necessity. Lauren is an avid participant in the arts. She is in Episcopal’s Wind Ensemble, Concert Band, Jazz Band, the Louisiana Youth Orchestra, and a variety of other ensembles. Lauren is also an Episcopal athlete who has participated in numerous sports over the years, and she plays multiple other instruments aside from the oboe, including the piano, saxophone, and clarinet.
Episcopal student artists are sharing the joy of the season with song, dance and music. Here's a look at recent festivities on campus and throughout the Baton Rouge community.
Photos provided by Episcopal senior Mason LaFerney.
Beyond Woodland Ridge
Congratulations to Episcopal students who are sharing their art with the Greater Baton Rouge community.
A frequent topic for both students and educators is the significance and purpose of one's time in school and the impact education will have later on in life. Teachers often remind us of the benefits of a well-rounded education and how no learning opportunity should be wasted. While the benefits of learning subjects that may or may not be used in one's future career varies from student to student, the impacts of subverting the learning process for the sake of ease have significant consequences. Unfortunately, students might find themselves tempted to cheat as a result of not seeing the value in their education, and the rate at which students cheat on average around the country can be disheartening.
Academic dishonesty can occur when students fail to see inherent value in their educational process and when students have a less sophisticated or developed moral compass. The good news is that schools can foster this moral development and encourage intrinsic motivation every single day, and this happens here at Episcopal.
Scholars Christopher Qualls, Lafe Figgars and Danette Gibbs found that as many as eight in ten college students self-report cheating, according to their paper in The College Student Journal. Liora Schmelkin, a professor at Hofstra University, has conducted research indicating that around seventy percent of high school students cheat. Most shocking of all these statistics comes from a professor of medicine at the University of Zagreb in Croatia. Taradi found through numerous surveys that a whopping ninety-seven percent of those medical students surveyed have cheated during medical school. Students who will go on to hold people's lives in their hands and even those educated at the most selective universities can shortchange their education. Further, the negative impacts of people in important careers who cut corners don't start and stop with those in the medical field.
Similarly, business schools are sometimes plagued by a lack of academic integrity. Assistant professor of business at William Woods University, Stephen Forsha, has not only found that business schools have high rates of academically dishonest students but also a set of students who tolerate academic dishonesty more than others at different institutions. In recent years, insider trading scandals have shaken the business world and have been the catalyst for large amounts of public discourse on corruption from major companies. These scandals have also cost innocent people millions and resulted in huge numbers of lost jobs. Many corrupt corporate executives behind these scandals attended prestigious undergraduate and graduate schools with a focus in business. Many have another thing in common that makes academic dishonesty a very important issue.
The biggest reason students are academically dishonest is that they lack fully-developed moral development. Moral development is a psychological theory founded by late psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg, which quantifies the levels of moral reasoning that guide a person’s actions. The lower levels of moral reasoning relate to self-interest and are (supposed to be) mostly exhibited by younger children. The intermediate level has to do with social conformity, and most teens function at this level (ideally). Fully functioning, well-developed adults are supposed to function at the highest level, which has to do with principles and ethics that do not sway in the face of societal pressure. Kohlberg’s theory was made with the assumption that most people function at a level of moral development that is appropriate for their age, but in real life this isn’t always true. This is where the problem with academic dishonesty becomes obvious. It has been found by the previously mentioned Stephen Forsha that business students display levels of moral development commonly displayed by young children and make arguments relating to ethics that are directly related to their own self-interest. Putting people with the same amount of moral development as children in positions of massive power and wealth is bound to lead to all sorts of problems, and of course it has with all of the previously mentioned examples of business scandals.
But, this does not have to be reality. Lynn Aaron and Catherine Roche, two academics published in the Journal of Educational Technology Systems, have found that academic dishonesty rates have risen tremendously from 1988 to 2008. This coincides with schools becoming more focused on performance and less focused on ensuring students are good citizens and human beings. Around 1988, schools stopped making character education mandatory, and academic dishonesty rates rose as a result. If the world wants to make sure students value being a good person and approach their lives with the same ethical attitudes across all of their endeavors, then schools need to return to focus on having conversations about ethics.
When all my research was said and done, I reflected on my time at Episcopal and realized several things. The first was about how lucky I was to be a member of the Episcopal community, and how much our school truly cared about its community. This included the honor code and our school’s mission to make students become good people who go on to lead purposeful lives. It made me feel lucky to be so involved in a true preparatory school: one that is not only concerned with producing good students and workers but good people as well. Episcopal has achieved this goal in every avenue I’ve witnessed. This truly hit me when members of the honor council at Washington and Lee University came to discuss our school’s honor system with us, and our entire discussion group revolved around trying to make our school’s system of integrity better. It became clear that we have succeeded in our mission and that Episcopal helps encourage students who are willing to speak about things they thought were wrong and try to make what they were passionate about better.
Ben Levine is a senior at the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge, and has attended the school since the 4th grade. He was inspired to join Thesis for the opportunity to hone his writing and speaking skills, and also to share something that excites him with other people. Outside of school, he has been an active member of a year round swim team and was runner up at the state meet his junior year of high school.
“You’re a Facebook famous puppy,” my family friend said in an excited, smiling tone as she reached out to pet my dog. This was the first reaction when Bailey walked in to a meeting I was attending.
My dad’s Facebook profile overflows with pictures of a short, long haired and tan dog with white spots and the fluffiest white tail you can imagine. Bailey, our flood-rescue dog, has the face of a chihuahua and the body of a papillon. If you examined my dad’s profile page even a little, it would be hard to believe Bailey wasn’t the only member of the Solomon family. There is no way to really know our family without knowing Bailey. Along with pictures of her sitting on his office chair or posing with pumpkins for fall, you can find pictures of her visiting with her fans: people who love to be visited by this happy pup and request her presence.
Aside from her modeling “career,” Bailey and my dad, Jim Solomon, are a registered therapy dog team through Tiger HATS LSU. In the midst of the Louisiana floods of 2016, this lost dog followed my dad through the streets near a home he was helping to fix. After searching for her home and not having any success, he soon adopted her, and began to realize how even-tempered she was. Having just moved from Newtown, CT, Jim had experienced therapy dogs himself after the Sandy Hook tragedy, and Bailey reminded him of the positive impact they had on him. He wanted to find a way to share her sweetness with others.
In “The Effect of Therapy Dogs on Children in a Learning Environment,” Kimberly Ann Scheckler defines a therapy dog as “a dog trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, people with learning difficulties, and stressful situations, such as disaster areas.” These dogs are trained and evaluated through many organizations such as Love on a Leash, Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs, and The Delta Society Pet Partners. Screening and examining of the owner/handler is also performed through these individual groups.
Therapy dogs are used for animal assisted therapy, which means they comfort anyone through petting or just viewing, and they have been found to have many positive benefits. Just a few of these benefits are outlined by Christine Cochran of Roxy Therapy Dogs. In just “15 minutes of petting a dog: blood pressure drops 10%; serotonin rises (relaxation); cortisol decreases (bad mood); dopamine increases (depression fighting); and anxiety is reduced.” There are many physical benefits to visiting with a therapy dog in a short amount of time. Adolescents, and those who parent or work with them, are no strangers to the challenges that can pop up during this critical time in our development. Stress and pressure is inevitable. But, sometimes, more serious obstacles like depression and anxiety can affect an adolescents’ schooling experience.
Helping with obstacles such as these, dogs can also provide a sense of belonging, as Mary Louise O’Brien states in her article “Pets as Counselors.” She notices that dogs will “love you (unconditionally) just the way you are.” There is no need to impress a dog or to feel judged because they have no way to process it. It also becomes easy to trust them, as they are incapable of repeating your information.
To utilize the positive effects of therapy dogs, Tiger HATS facilitates a program in the Baton Rouge community. The organization holds classes to allow dog owners and their pets to learn more about becoming a team through the organization Pet Partners International. The duo must then pass a series of exams to become certified and gain an insurance coverage policy. After this, the teams will be sent out to locations around Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to visit locations and bring joy to difficult situations. One of Bailey’s most visited places is the Our Lady of the Lake Hospital, where she gets to cheer up patients who are recovering or families of loved ones in a state of emergency.
After seeing the impact the two made on others, I decided to become a registered therapy dog team with Bailey. I now get to take her to the Parker House, a “Therapeutic Group Home in Louisiana for children ages 3-13 who… have been diagnosed with a severe behavioral disorder or a mental illness,” according to Volunteers of America. I get to introduce her to kids who seek comfort and share funny stories about her to gift them with a moment of peace in the midst of their chaos. In just the two visits I’ve had at the house, I’ve seen the difference therapy dogs make in these children’s lives. Their eyes light up, and they become ecstatic when they get to walk or hug her. Bailey becomes their own piece of joy in the moment, and they become disappointed when she has to leave, but they hold on to the hope that they’ll see her, along with the other dogs who visit, again the next month.
Audrey Hendler, the founder of a therapy dog program in New York City, A Fair Shake for Youth, visits students alongside dogs to teach them about empathy. She found that the middle schoolers she reached out to gained empathy and confidence as they realized the dogs were relating and listening to them. She also noticed that “Having an adult tell them they’ll be back next week and then showing up is a big deal to these kids… [because] adults aren’t always a consistent part of their life.” Not only does this example show the joy dogs can bring, but it can relate to the sense of trust the kids at the Parker House begin to experience.
I began to realize that if registered therapy dogs are this beneficial, why don’t we see them utilized more often and in different environments? I think they should become a new norm. I’d like to see them more often roaming hallways in schools or even in other environments that may cause stress, such as an airport or a mall. When looking at schools, it’s important that these places of education are open to trying out new things, and Episcopal has proven this is possible. Bailey has made appearances here at Episcopal for educational purposes and has been welcomed happily by the counseling staff and administration. With clear benefits and insurance fighting against potential drawbacks, there is little to no room left to argue against the implementation of therapy dogs. Just a moment of petting these sweet creatures can bring a great amount of relief, and I’d love to share that with others, as I know the feeling myself.
This idea of therapy dogs being used in schools were first introduced to me after the Sandy Hook tragedy when they helped me and my classmates in the search for comfort. To learn more about this experience that lead to my research, click here.
Ashley Solomon has been a student at the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge since her sophomore year and is an Honors Diploma candidate. In addition to her involvement in the Thesis program, she participates in cross country, Mock Trial, and is the community service coordinator for the National Honors Society. Her thesis explores the importance of mental health in adolescents and the effects of implementing therapy dogs in a school setting.
Abby is six and dressed head to toe in pink with light-up glitter Sketchers, still fresh with shoe store fragrance, on her feet for her first day of first grade. Finally, she is allowed to walk herself to the bathroom and eat lunch with the big kids in the cafeteria. In class, Abby’s teacher hands each student two primary colored folders: either blue, yellow, or red. The primary colors are completely separate and unique; they cannot be blended with anything to make the others. This idea of separation also carries into the materials inside the two folders. The first folder is for math, learning how to handle the combination of numbers, and the second is for English, the first steps towards understanding words, then sentences, and then whole stories and chapter books.
This separation of disciplines from a very young age is not only common but relatively standard in schools across the country. Clearly this system works: children go in, learn one subject, learn another, go home, read, do a few math problems, and repeat the next day. However, this system leaves little room for the messiness of learning, for the neon pinks and lime greens, for the experiences that cannot be neatly cataloged but shape the course of children’s development.
Luckily, our Lower School program at Episcopal celebrates this “messiness of learning.” You need not look too far to see Pre-K tending to their gardens while learning about butterfly migration to Mexico, all while dancing in rain puddles and creating imaginary worlds and vivid stories with their friends. This sort of holistic approach to learning comes naturally to the smallest of learners and should be embraced as they continue to grow and develop.
At home, this messiness manifests when Abby is baking apple pie with her grandmother, throwing a ball with her little sister, practicing the piano, coloring on the walls of her room, or digging for dinosaur bones in her backyard. Abby is learning and her brain is following suit.
These sorts of experiences, at home or at school, show the world functioning in interdisciplinary ways. When you bake you have to keep sight of a long term goal while following sometimes tedious instructions and understanding the chemistry of mixed ingredients. When you throw a ball you have to think about the angle of your arm so it does not fly straight into the ground, and when you play the piano you have to be able to read the music and hit the right notes simultaneously. Just as they are in life, subjects in school are innately connected and these connections between different academic disciplines in everyday life make the idea of interdisciplinary learning in the classroom seem less daunting or radical.
Here at Episcopal, students like Abby practice this interdisciplinary style of thought everyday. Through project based learning, students are exposed to real world situations and are asked to engage with their environments. On the Coach Dupe trail, in the art room, and while programming robots: Episcopal encourages students to explore new ideas that wind like rabbit holes into lands of imagination.
Specifically, music and math are two subjects that, when purposefully connected, fit this philosophy quite nicely. As shown in an experiment by Johannes Sarnthein, listening to music for ten minutes can greatly increase brain activation in the prefrontal cortex, which is located at the very front of the brain. The cortex houses what are called executive functioning skills, which include spatial temporal reasoning, planning, decision making, motivation, and goal setting. Students who excel in math are typically adept in processes like pattern recognition, which not only relies on executive functioning skills, but is also present in music comprehension.
This innate connection is an example of the reinforcement of skills in education. The way the brain works on a basic level is that when we learn something and have it reinforced in some way, it will be processed to form neural pathways within the brain. All of these pathways add up to create a network of constantly growing and changing knowledge.
As stated in "The Optimum Context for Learning; Drawing on Neuroscience to Inform Best Practice in the Classroom" by Bettina Hohnen and Tara Murphy, “an immature brain is not necessarily one with fewer neurons; rather, it is one with fewer connections between neurons.” Even though our brains stop growing after the age of five, according to Daniel Pink, as we grow the number of connections in our brains dwarfs the number of neurons one million times over. Just as everyone eventually stops getting taller without having experienced everything or knowing everything there is to know, our brains stop getting bigger without ceasing to learn and further develop.
For current parents, a dramatic shift in the education system during your child’s time in school is unlikely, but there are ways to nurture the messiness of learning at home to augment the more traditional practices of the classroom. The next time you’re baking a cake together or rearranging the furniture in the living room, help your child see the many different academic disciplines that are intersecting. Encouraging kids to try new activities and experience new things, particularly ones that might be scary or uncomfortable at first, can help impart in kids a drive and love of learning that is applicable all through school and will help them learn and develop necessary skills throughout their lives.
Hallie Sternberg has attended Episcopal since Kindergarten. She will graduate with Honors in May, 2019. In addition to her involvement with the Thesis program, Hallie is an avid participant in the Episcopal theatre and choir programs, a member of National Honors Society, Co-Editor in Chief of Troubadour (Episcopal’s Literary Magazine), a Writing Fellow, Math Tutor, and President of the French Club. Hallie was invited to present on a panel at the Popular Culture Association Conference this spring. After graduation, Hallie hopes to go on to major in Cognitive Science.