December 1, 2017

Youth Must Engage With Accessible News

Countless hours are spent scrolling through Instagram feeds, looking into other people’s lives, obsessing over the way others present themselves to the world, yet so many teens feel unable to spend a few minutes of their day reading a news article or listening to a podcast.

With news being so much more accessible than it has ever been before, it is surprising how few teens engage with current events.

In order to encourage an interest in current events, youth need reliable and easy-to-read news. In 2015, Snapchat launched “Discover” which gave its users access to different media sites’ stories, yet what passes for news on this platform is a far cry from the investigative reporting, comprehensive analysis, and nuanced opinions that youth really need. In the past week, numerous articles have been published covering the Kardashians and their outfits on the Discover component of Snapchat, but only one regarding the political divide plaguing America.

The stories are meant to target the interests of young people, but knowing that Kim Kardashian wore eight thousand-dollar shoes yesterday is not expanding our world view in any way.

Beyond just reading the news, youth involvement in journalism is vital for a stable and well-educated community. When young people are involved in the process of composing the local stories, the news becomes more accessible to a younger audience.

Laboring through a thousand word article in the Washington Post that is convoluted and unrelated to our daily lives can feel like a waste of time. The representative journalism of student-run newspapers delivers original content that engages both its writers and audience.

Involvement of youth in the process of this journalism shows us how news is produced, and what it means to be a good journalist, allowing us to better analyze the media we take in.

Knowing how journalism functions encourages readers to collect a range of sources, yielding less biased opinions and discouraging parochial views on the world. While reading news from the same types of sources unnecessarily limits your access to information, reading multiple stories on the same topic from different sources encourages individuality, new perspectives, and results in a more thorough understanding.

It is easy to get stuck in our own bubbles. Our worlds revolve around busy lives, and it is often difficult to connect with events in distant places that do not seem to impact us. It would be easier to turn a blind eye, but all the depressing and disturbing things that are occurring in the world are real.

There is no reason that we should allow only the same educated adults to be aware of current events, reinforcing the power structures that granted them their privilege. Copious amounts of news stories, podcasts, and educational videos that aim to inform people of the occurrences around the world are just a click of a button away. With such accessibility, there is no excuse for not actively consuming news – and responding.

Engaging in current events is surprisingly easy. There are numerous newsletters with free subscriptions that provide unfettered access to straightforward information of global relevance.

Wake Up To Politics is a newsletter written by a 15-year-old from Missouri that offers a comprehensible, non-partisan briefing on news regarding United States politics. Apple offers a free podcast app where it is possible to find tons of captivating podcasts dedicated to international current events. The daily podcast produced by The New York Times lends engrossing thirty minute stories about a range of relevant topics.

Media offers us students the rare opportunity to take our education into our own hands. Read the news. Get inspired. Engage with Change



November 2, 2017

Rally Day Unites Amid Chaos

Known to administration as “Red and Gold Day” and to students as “Rally Day,” the Friday of Spirit Week always seems to cause a ruckus. On this one special day out of the year, the entire school enters a raving red and gold frenzy. The noise as grades collectively shout their graduating year has the power to drown out other divisions in the student body.

There is love in our hatred. From an outside perspective, this practice is dividing us even further from each other, but to most students, Rally Day brings us together in fervent pride of our differing grades. Rally day is the one day a year that we stand with people who we have never seen outside of Berkeley High School’s (BHS) hallways and join together in trying to out-scream our rivaling grades.

There is a natural and permanent hierarchy of grades in high school that no amount of Unity Assemblies will remedy. Taking away Rally Day means rescinding the chance to unite Berkeley High students across small schools, race, and socioeconomic status. Hating people because of their graduating class is arbitrary in the grand scheme of things, and we all understand that. And while the tradition of celebrating the senior class creates superficial division, it is one of the only times when the senior class is able to come together to take pride in surviving the strenuous past four years.

The fun spirit behind the celebration of Rally Day is sadly taken over by the frustration of having students use Rally Day as an excuse to drink to the point of belligerence, throw bottles at people, and get into physical fights in the streets. This kind of dangerous and inappropriate behavior is agreed to be intolerable between administration and most of the student body. Most students don’t like to be thrown into the mix of that behavior either and find it infuriating that our right to have Rally Day is regularly threatened due to the poor decisions of a few students.

While things are not perfect now, they were exponentially worse only a decade ago, when students threw watermelons on Freshman Friday, set fire to school buildings, and got drunk at school on any given day. The culture surrounding Rally Day has shifted in the right direction, and if it continues on this positive trend as it has in past years, there is the possibility that the student body will naturally neglect the negative components of Rally Day.

Whether or not the BHS administration endorses Rally Day, students will proceed to participate in their infamous behavior. The administration can decide to either embrace Rally Day, or suppress the tradition, with the likelihood of even worse repercussions from the student body as the desire to rally will inevitably endure.


October 20, 2017

NFL Protests Are Dignified, not Unpatriotic

Last year, the Berkeley High School (BHS) football team knelt and locked arms during the national anthem to protest black oppression and ongoing police brutality. After three players raised their fists in a previous game, a discussion was sparked among the team, which eventually decided to display a united protest.

Current BHS senior Isaiah Mays said last year, “We’re Berkeley High, we don’t care about the scrutiny we are going to get, we don’t care about what other people say about it. We want to care about what we think the country should represent.” The football team was following in the footsteps of Colin Kaepernick, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, who first sat, and later knelt, during the national anthem.

Kaepernick’s actions startled the National Football League (NFL), with many interpreting his actions as disrespectful to veterans, the military, and the flag. While players throughout the league imitated the protest, many others in the sport admonished the gesture. Although the protests have continued in 2017, Kaepernick has not participated because no team signed him as a free agent. Nevertheless, he has followed through on his commitment to donate one million dollars to organizations working in oppressed communities, detailing the amount and the purpose of every dollar on his website.

With this knowledge, it should come as no surprise that President Donald Trump has lambasted Kaepernick’s protest in Twitter tirades.

Trump puppeteered Vice President Mike Pence into staging a counter-protest by walking out of an Indianapolis Colts game after players knelt for the national anthem. Trump’s immature diatribe proceeded as he focused attention on the NFL in numerous tweets.

The animosity towards Bay Area sports reached its pinnacle when, in another Twitter tirade, Trump withdrew the customary invitation to the White House of the Golden State Warriors. It appears that this resentment is not reserved for the Bay Area either, as it is no coincidence that Trump has failed to express any sentiment of remorse for the victims of the California fires.

Truly, more than a political or athletic issue, this is a racial one. Detractors of the national anthem protests find no fault in free speech when it allows them to spew hate speech, yet when it is employed by a black athlete choosing to abstain from standing for the national anthem it becomes morally reprehensible.

Kaepernick and BHS student-athletes alike have eloquently stated their cause, their position, and their reasonings. The national anthem is the symbol for the American ideals of rights, freedom, and opportunity. These athletes are entitled to protest to bring attention to the fact that these values are not offered without discrimination to all Americans.

Critics can come nowhere within the vicinity of doing the same, even when they distort the intent of the protesters to fit their narrative.

There are countless ways to demonstrate that kneeling for the national anthem is not unpatriotic, but only one matters. That is the one unanimously repeated by athletes: they are protesting police brutality.

If someone, anyone, is legitimately striving to improve the country and the conditions for the citizens living in it, they should be applauded, and any label of unpatriotic should be disregarded.

NFL ratings have declined because America is racist. Kaepernick is viewed as toxic to NFL franchises because America is racist. NFL owners and general managers are resistant to accept Kaepernick onto their team because they are racist.

With that platform, protesting is the only ideal option.


October 6, 2017

By Daniel Martinez-Krams

Why do we seek retribution as a solution? Why do we continuously condemn individuals as if that will absolve the community of pain and hurt? Why do we pretend that this is an isolated incident? Why do we consistently fail to realize that this problem is universal, systemic, and institutional?

It would be wonderful if this space could be used to applaud the incredible resiliency, determination, and efforts of the Chicanx Latinx United Voices in the face of immense hatred. However, now, and all too often, it feels that our time, effort, and resources are being redirected — misdirected — to reactionary discipline, leaving us no ability to proactively educate, celebrate, or honor heritage. We as a Berkeley High School community have to stop excusing perpetrators of racism by claiming that they are not racist. We cannot excuse bigotry by attempting to explain that they “really are good people.” When we vindicate the latest offenders by asserting that they did not truly believe what they said, that they were passive bystanders, or that it was a joke, we are excusing racism.

The argument that any one of those individuals is not a racist, an ableist, or an anti-Semite is wholly invalid. Any individual who could tolerate the sight of such egregious writing without being abhorred, disgusted, and revolted, retains explicit biases.

Our community wants to find a culprit. This allows us to pretend that the issue is atypical. We want to punish our culprit. Suspension, expulsion, social ostracization. We want to discuss, but only if that discussion lasts less than a week and does not take away from class time. None of that addresses the problem. Racism, bigotry, hatred, injustice, and discrimination will not be expunged if we contextualize the problem as a singular issue. We must denounce those who to take action with the sole objective of making themselves feel better. We must unify to confront hatred at its source, we must be absolutely intolerant of intolerance, and we must never excuse bigotry — whether it is thrown in our face or swept under the rug. Instead of focusing on individuals, we should be asking how we have failed as peers, as teachers, and as a community.

Our conviction must be evident in every facet of our lives. Berkeley is well aware that these actions do not represent our community. Now we must work to ensure that they cannot persist in our community.



September 22, 2017

Everyday, students suffer from sexual harassment. There is no reason that students should be forced to endure additional trauma when the administration becomes involved. However, that is often the situation in which Berkeley High School (BHS) students find themselves after reporting harassment.

For too long, complaints of sexual harassment at BHS have not been taken seriously. Reported cases of harassment have often been handled without the degree of respect necessary.

No matter how much effort the administration puts towards making the process of reporting harassment easier, the history of mishandled cases still stands and will continue to deter students from coming forward with their experiences. This has proven to create an additional barrier to the already incredibly intimidating task of reporting experiences of sexual harassment.

Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) needs to improve upon sexual harassment policies that guide the handling of reports of sexual harassment that occur on and off campus.

The administration is clearly making an effort to better the conditions for students at BHS through the numerous sexual harassment assemblies held over the last few years. The assemblies focused on educating students about what sexual harassment actually is; however, they do not address or change the way real life cases of harassment are handled. Even though they have tried to mend a part of the issue, administrators continue to be unclear about what students should do if they experience or witness sexual harassment or if they witness it.

The BHS administration needs to be completely transparent with students about how they will handle reports of sexual harassment. There needs to be an accessible way for students to report sexual harassment and it has to be clear to students what steps the administration will take after the harassment is reported.

It is precisely the administration’s objective to foster a safe environment for all students. This includes one in which sexual harassment is universally regarded as inexcusable and students are comfortable to reveal experiences of assault without fear of backlash. Student groups have done more than enough to advocate for their righteous cause. It is now up to the administration and the district to step up to the plate to finally confront the systemic issues perpetuating sexual harassment at our school.