Category Archives: Opinions

An international divide: COVID-19 vaccine mandates

Across the world, thousands of individuals have chosen not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine shot. As of October 27–the time I am writing this —3 billion people worldwide have obtained the vaccine. Many countries have sat back and waited, including President Joe Biden, who recently lost patience with anti-vaccine activists. Many people have split opinions on the topic of mandates, especially in the United States. Many Democrats support the use of vaccinations and masks.

Meanwhile, many Republicans ignore the health restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID. A similar type of politics occurs not just in the United States but throughout every country. Citizens of Italy and Canada, among others, have hosted demonstrations to protest specific vaccine mandates subject to public employees. Though their governments have the health of their citizens in the best interest, people do not want to follow the “unconstitutional guidelines.”

Starting in Europe, the Italian government introduced a mandate for all public workers to show a government-issued COVID pass on October 15. According to an article from CNN, people must have a “green pass” as proof of either full vaccination, recent recovery from infection, or a negative test. The punishment for not showing this is a 1,500 euro fine ($1,730) and suspension without pay. In Trieste, a large port in the northeast corner of Italy, 6,000 people participated in a demonstration threatening to block operations. Fabio Bocin, a port worker in Trieste, said, “The green pass is a bad thing, it is discrimination under the law. Nothing more. It’s not a health regulation, it’s just a political move to create division among people.” Police in riot gear blocked off another rally in Rome. However, a certificate has been in effect on long-distance trains and indoor venues since September 1, 2021.

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According to a CBC article, 2,000 people rallied in Calgary, Alberta, to protest vaccine mandates and COVID public health measures. Most of the protestors work for government and health offices, which require employees to receive two doses of the COVID vaccine. COVID-19 patients fill nearly 700 hospital beds in Alberta, and about 2,400 people have died in the province. Just last week, ICU beds were at 130% capacity. One of the saddest parts of this is people have started comparing the Holocaust to vaccine mandates. They say that the genocide committed towards Jews in the 1940s relates to the order forcing public workers to receive the vaccine. Other rallies were scheduled in Edmonton and Lethbridge later in the week.

Many people in Massachusetts, on the other hand, support a mandate in the state. According to a survey from the COVID-19 Consortium for Understanding the Public’s Policy Preferences Across States, 75% of Massachusetts adults want a universal vaccine mandate. Some other results include: 71% support mandates for kids at school, and 78% support a mandate for college students. The Boston Globe reported that numbers are about ten points lower than those in Massachusetts. The political divide, in terms of COVID, around the country is backed by multiple surveys. 10 of the 11 most supportive states of a mandate lean Democratic, while 18 of the least supportive states lean Republican.

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COVID-19 has run rampant in the United States over the past 18 months. With the vaccine’s introduction in December 2020, many people thought we were nearing the end of the road. Though we are still amid the pandemic, vaccine mandates can help convince holdouts to give in. Like the rallies and protests in Italy and Canada, people have submitted lawsuits against state directives. A report from the Wall Street Journal states that most judges have struck down the challenges. Judges in Maine, Oregon, and Massachusetts upheld a vaccination requirement for government employees. Nationally, US President Joe Biden has talked about implementing a vaccination requirement for private companies.

As reported by CNBC, Republican officials and small businesses are gearing up to challenge a mandate that will apply to 130,000 businesses in the United States. Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order that bars anyone from mandating vaccines in Texas, though he is vaccinated. “I will never ask a Texan to do something I’m not willing to do myself,” was something he said in December before receiving his shot. We see many of the same beliefs throughout the Republican Party, with government officials choosing to get the vaccine but opposing vaccine regulations. Nearly every GOP attorney general signed a letter to the President in opposition. However, David Vladeck, a professor from Georgetown University, stated, “States, however, probably don’t have legal standing to challenge the rule.” This stands in line with the previous lawsuits article from the Wall Street Journal. It is tough to argue against a mandate to combat one of the most significant public health crises.

COVID vaccine mandates are necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Through all the protests and lawsuits around the world, people continue to divide the country politically. It may be impossible to convince some right-wing Conservatives to receive a vaccine. However, GOP officials, especially Donald Trump, need to step up and widely support vaccines. Without the majority of the world vaccinated, the pandemic may never end.

Alex Kwas is a freshman member of The Quill

The confusion of post-quarantine education

With the two-week reprieve from school in March of 2020 finally ending months later, educators are forced to confront the future of the US school system. With the future uncertain, who can we turn to? What were the benefits, if any, of online learning? What struggles did it pose? What was best for educators, and what was best for students? How does one teach an art-based class virtually? Ryan Foti is an art teacher at Mount Saint Joseph High School. He has been teaching multiple art classes for twelve years, and by 2020 had formed a sort of “classroom flow.”

“Well, I mean, with us in the arts program, there’s a bit of an introduction, and then there’s a lot of work time, and then there’s a reflection.” In a normal year. But as we are brutally aware, 2020 was not a typical year. When asked if a lack of in-person instruction had a significant effect on productivity, Mr. Foti responded: “I see this year (2021) and the year before (2019) and compare it to that 2020 year, and the difference is exponential.” And that, while in person, “In a matter of one and a half seconds I can survey my entire room, see how they’re doing, and identify who needs help and who can be pushed harder.” The benefit of a working classroom, where a teacher can simply walk up behind a student, glance over their work, and offer off-the-cuff instruction is impossible in an online environment. 

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The sudden switch to the most extended two-week reprieve from school posed new challenges. “Everyone has a different device,” Mr. Foti stated, “some students were working with iPads, some were working with computers, so changing what I was doing was really dependant on access to stuff.” The issue stemmed not from a lack of access to technology, as Mount Saint Joseph provides iPads to all their students, however from the variety of technology. “You were teaching the same thing but three different ways: this is how you do it on a computer, this is how you do it on an iPad, and this is how you do it on a phone. Oh, none of those are working cause everything is out? Ok, well, you can draw on a piece of paper and use that as a way to brainstorm. It was a lot of, like, a lot of pivoting. Pivot was a big word.”

Pivoting is nothing new to teachers. In the last two decades, schools have had to rethink how they teach. As technology becomes more and more integrated into our daily lives, it becomes more and more necessary in educational environments. Advances in science and math can entirely change curriculums. History changes daily, and some courses such as English have the opportunity to cover a different curriculum (to an extent) every year. Mr. Foti believes that “being able to adapt to students, and their needs is what makes you (the teacher) and your students effective.”

A shift in learning resulted in a change in schedule. Students at Mount Saint Joseph transitioned from a schedule that included eight 40 minute periods in a given day to four 45 minute periods in a day with longer teacher office hours, giving students the ability to meet in small groups via zoom. The schedule also had “off days,” where students would not have a class every day. In a regular schedule, students would have the same classes every day. In the distanced learning schedule, students would have half of their classes one day and the other half the next day. “It works well for the arts because having more time is actually a benefit for us,” Mr. Foti commented, “I would take those off days and say it was an expectation that they did some work for my class on those off days… some did and some didn’t.”

The schedule ultimately changed to become a hybrid schedule, where the student body was split into “cohorts.” These cohorts would alternate days that they would meet in person (cohort 1 was in school on Mondays and Wednesdays, cohort 2 was in school on Tuesdays and Thursdays), and the cohort that was not in school physically attended via zoom. Mr. Foti believes that students and faculty alike were “split between two places;” students couldn’t establish their usual “class culture” that came with being fully in person or online. School serves as many students’ social cocoons, allowing them to develop social skills and collaborate with peers in a way they may not be able to if isolated. 

Where are we headed? What do all these changes mean for the future of education? Mr. Foti believes that the year spent teaching virtually served as a sort of “forced boot camp for a lot of teachers to up their game in terms of 21st-century skills;” in that teachers were forced to relearn how to teach utilizing the advancements in technology we have seen in the last twenty years. Teachers now engage students more rather than encourage the regurgitation of information. Moving forward, we may have opportunities to take classes with students from other countries; however, nothing will replace the classroom flow that in-person school accomplishes.

Connor Sciullo is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class

Youth and reading: Can we revive the world of literature?

The fatal flaw of the current generation of high school and college-aged males is that hardly anyone is reading. Most young male students do not care enough, do not see the value, or do not have the time to read literature. Despite this, reading has significant benefits: it helps your critical thinking, improves your writing skills, and gives you a serious advantage on the SAT. But for most students, that is not enough. It should be enough! Still, a portion of students do have that drive to study literature, but nothing can convince most students to read instead of playing video games or pick up literature instead of another club.

Reading is a female-dominated habit. Even with audiobooks being a popular alternative for men, a Norwegian study finds that women dominate the audiobook market in Norway, with almost 1.5 times as many female listeners as males. Even so, many do not consider audiobooks a whole replacement for printed books. Most people who read audiobooks like to do something else, which takes away part of their attention. 70 percent of audiobook listeners in Norway say they prefer to do something else while listening. However, when listening to audiobooks with your full attention, brain activity is almost the same as reading print books, and most of the benefits of reading print books are experienced.

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In the UK, US, and Canada, men only account for 20 percent of fiction readers. This comes down to a gap in the sexes and a gap of empathy. Females are consistently shown to have an at least noticeable difference in empathy, which can help them be more invested in fictional literature.

This is not cut and dry. Levels of attraction to fiction could be a natural difference between males and females. However, most boys do not need much of a shove to propel them into fiction – it can usually be a good book series or a good school teacher. An astonishing 61 percent of boys asked by the publisher Scholastic agreed that it was after reading the Harry Potter series when they started reading for fun. When asked on the subject, Mount Theology teacher Mr. Brian Shearer, also an MSJ alumnus from the class of 2014, said it only took one class. “Sophomore year of high school at Mount Saint Joe…we had to read more than a handful of novels from American literature…take detailed notes on them, have in-depth discussions on them and rigorous testing on them.” This is what it took to fall in love with reading.

So how can we push students, especially males, to take that first step or get them to actually read, which will spark that interest? English teacher Mrs. Kirsten Nilsen has the goal of “helping them find personal connections,” which allows her to make sure that her students are reading and help actually engage them. She has to get the “at grade level” students, who usually will stay as far from a book as possible, to read and analyze the literature. This is a difficult position, and because of how vital literature is, critical and rewarding.

Mrs. Nilsen also clarifies that the current accessibility of visual media is one of the main things taking away from the print book’s dominance. When asked about reading participation, she stated that over the past ten years, she has realized that reading is not an activity that kids love right away.

To help with this new issue, there seems to be a two-fold answer: Making kids less dependent on visual media and making reading more appealing to their modern taste. It will be impossible for teachers or parents, or anyone in a position of authority to get their kids to read unless they can do both of those. The previously mentioned audiobooks are one way that kids, especially high school students who have phones and other electronic devices, can easily listen to books and engage with literature. Instead of putting on music, teens might want to actually listen to an audiobook when walking to a friend’s house or while shooting basketball.

Audiobooks are a great start, especially for teens that have been accustomed to not reading most of their lives. It addresses the one issue of having literature appeal to the modern palette, but ignores the issue of fixing the contemporary palette.

This goal of fixing the modern palette may be impossible on a large scale. What is not impossible is having children reading at a young age, which will give them the interest and long-term capability to read literature. However, this is just as hard of a task as getting high schoolers to read. It takes a lot of time and effort to get children the exposure to literature required to get this interest.

Feeding children literature that matches their interest, and getting them to read it, will almost certainly result in long-term engagement. But this takes time, money, and effort – time, money, and effort that most parents, caregivers, and teachers cannot afford. For this, some options and methods might take the load off these individuals. Parents can make a point to visit the library weekly or biweekly. As well as having a minimum amount of reading for their children between visits. This will get kids used to the sometimes hard action of reading. It will help teach them how to take care of books, and trips to the library can be quick, easy, and free for most people living in metropolitan areas. There are even programs at many libraries to try to build interest in literature for youth. This past year in Baltimore, the citywide Enoch Pratt Free Library hosted Summer Break Baltimore, a library program for children with thousands of participants. This program involved library activities as well as reading books.

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As previously mentioned, there are ways for teachers to help students actually read and make connections, which is the best way to generate a pro-literature mindset. For younger students, this can be as simple as silent reading time, rewards for reading, or making books easily accessible in the school library. According to the guidelines from Scholastic, the ideal independent reading time is as little as 45 minutes for second grade and up. And most schools already have libraries for students to use. Programs can help usage, as well as teachers using the library for lessons.

Now that we have gotten the very important “how” out of the way, it is also necessary to bring it back up and go into greater detail with the “why.”

When interviewing Ms. Nilsen, I found that one of the reasons it is so important for children or anyone to read is how it uses our imagination. To break down this idea: reading has us use our creativity to the fullest where visual, and even some auditory media just spoon-feeds us how to see everything. But reading engages the mind so much more and allows for a more personal or in-depth relationship with the media.

Empathy. For Mr. Shearer, a Theology teacher, he wants students to use literature to understand: understanding the world, concepts, and, most importantly, understanding other people. Mr. Shearer uses books and articles to help students better understand the world and its people and use texts that are merely advice, factual, or relate to the course.

The literate citizenry is an invaluable asset to, and a long-rooted part of, our society as it has developed. It is a way to gain knowledge and experience. A way to build empathy and understanding. It works our imaginations more and in a different way than anything else. This trend of other informative and entertainment mediums growing their market share will not likely subside anytime soon. However, we can always do our part and do what is best for us and those in our lives.

John Lawrence Lauer is a junior member of the Multimedia Journalism class

“Monolingual is the minority” – Learning a foreign language is key to global success

At Mount St. Joseph, we spend a lot of our time studying subjects such as mathematics, science, history, or English because we’ve been told that it is “important” within our choice of major for college and career. Yet we seldom seem to hear about the importance of a foreign language. After all, I hadn’t given it much through since I no longer pursued my French language study. Even in our school system Math, Science, English, and History are all classes you have to take for 3 or 4 years, no excuse, yet in foreign language, it is only 2 years. So with that knowledge, I set myself out on the journey of finding the fundamental importance of knowing a language that isn’t your own. 

I do think as citizens of the United States we also have to work as ambassadors of the United States to the world. That is learning of the languages and of the cultures. And getting good at it.

Dr. Elizabeth Pease

I decided that I would interview Jonathon Gibbons, a teacher who teaches Spanish, Italian, and the first two levels of French, to better understand why we should study a foreign language with a more self-important look. Most of us students would ask ourselves when exploring a new language would be “Why does it matter for me to study this?” or “Am I wasting my time studying this?” The question as to what we could benefit from studying a new language can be a complex answer for some, but to Mr. Gibbons, it was one of simplicity. “When in the cases of, especially in the ones that we learn, in either Spanish, French, Italian, German, or Chinese. These languages all have rich history and culture phenomenon that are worth knowing.” Gibbons added, “And also to say from my personal experience, in general, if I had not spoken another language I would have not met someone, might not have seen something.”

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When studying anything in high school, we often ask ourselves what the most essential thing to study is? The answer to that question is not as easy as learning Spanish, Italian, or French. Instead, it is one of the people’s motivations for what they want to do with their language knowledge. “If you, for example, are looking to get into, you know, art or history, you probably want to learn Italian or French,” said Gibbons. 

You have now seen why we should study a foreign language, but what do we get from learning a different language? In a sense, it is a case of what you should get from learning a new language. As stated before, a person who finds it necessary should want to study it for maybe a goal of history or art. A way of having this appreciation is for having the ability to go to see a film and understand the language they are speaking, even if you aren’t as good at that language. Or it can even unexpectedly help you. Mr. Gibbons explained how suddenly, it can help you, “I would say more practically, deal with survival situations when need be. Not only to help yourself but also another person.” 

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If you are a junior or soon to be junior, you likely think about continuing down the path of studying a foreign language. Dr. Elizabeth Pease believes in the importance of going beyond the basics. “A real simple one is working beyond the beginner basics in one subject area and taking it to an intermediate advance level, is just a very good exercise and experience in the foreign language.” For us to continue the study would be like taking a higher math subject from what we are required to do, you could do the same for a foreign language. 

So yes, there is some use to studying a foreign language beyond the two years required. However, some students may already know a foreign language before going to MSJ. Now, this is probably just a far-off example, yet it is a natural thought because of the many people that go to this school. The simple answer is that it would be beneficial to be bilingual and be trilingual, which can benefit you in life in the long run, or it can help you study the language you already know to improve for a variety of reasons. “They would still really need to study the written form of the language, the grammar, and greater precision of the language. So they still may need to keep studying that very same language,” Dr. Pease said.  

More of the world is bilingual or multilingual than is monolingual. Monolingual is the minority. We don’t want to be the minority, we want to compete, we want to be able to connect, we want to bring goodwill to others.

Dr. Elizabeth Pease

The final question I asked was, why should we study a foreign language in university? This was a question I had thought about for a while because what would we exactly do with the language during university. “I do think as citizens of the United States we also have to work as ambassadors of the United States to the world. That is learning of the languages and of the cultures. And getting good at it.” Dr. Pease continued, “More of the world is bilingual or multilingual than is monolingual. Monolingual is the minority. We don’t want to be the minority, we want to compete, we want to be able to connect, we want to bring goodwill to others.”     

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So at the end of the interviewing process, it ended up opening my mind up to learning a foreign language again. Learning about why we study a foreign language was actually more interesting than I imagined it would be. Hearing from people directly involved with the learning and teaching of a foreign language made me appreciate it even more. And I hope it has done the same for you.

Chris DeGroote is a junior member of the Multimedia Journalism class

When a job lays bare the failings of humanity

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“Well, this is America. I didn’t think I’d have to come to little Mexico today.” I froze. My blood pressure spiked. I turned to the man who had dropped such a racially charged comment. I then looked at the Hispanic man next to me. On the first day of my new job, three complete strangers made fully formed profiles of each other in less than a minute. 

In the summer of 2021, I managed to score my dream part-time job. I was a sailing instructor at a watersport rental shop. This shop rented out paddleboards, kayaks, and small sailboats. My job entailed me giving lessons on both days of the weekend, and assisting with the summer camp Eastern ran during the week. 

A job requires a re-evaluation of priorities.

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I arrived on my first day with little information. My work situation was already somewhat irregular; I had not met my boss yet, and I was not officially on my employer’s payroll. That day I had two individuals scheduled for the morning lesson. I prepared a whiteboard, drawing a diagram of the points of sail on it. The first showed up almost thirty minutes early. The second arrived ten minutes late, his reasoning being that he “couldn’t find anyone who spoke English to get directions.” I ignored this and continued my lesson on how to tack. 

“Is that a problem?” The second individual said.

“Well I mean, this is America, they should speak English.”

“They’re Hispanic. They speak Spanish.”

“Well, this is America. I didn’t think I’d have to come to little Mexico today.” Suddenly, on my first day, I was faced with a situation I could not have imagined the morning prior. I was at a loss for words. I stared at the man who had made the comment in utter disbelief. I stared until the other man, a man of Hispanic heritage, spoke.

“I’m leaving.” In my mind, at that moment, the situation became much easier for me. Although he had been wronged, the Hispanic man was content with leaving and rescheduling for another day. Despite my situation becoming much simpler, something was eating at me: Why should the one offended have to leave? Why should his day be ruined? Why shouldn’t we ask the other man to leave? I ran to my manager.

An expletive was my manager’s only response. 

“So what do I do?”

“We’ll get the guy who’s leaving rescheduled. Give the racist the lesson.”

“Okay.”

I ran to catch the Hispanic man. He had almost made it back to his car. I briefly apologized for the other customer’s behavior and told him who to call to reschedule. He was very understanding. Before we parted ways that day, he made one request:

“Give the other guy a good lesson, don’t let this color how you treat him. You still have a job to do.” This stuck with me. At the end of the day, I was an employee. I had a job to do. While I may not always like the customer or even my job, I still have a commitment to fulfill.

The day continued, with me and the racist individual in a boat for three hours together. I sat toward the front of the porous catamaran’s trampoline surface, being blasted with waves, waves that chilled me but not as much as the individual’s theories on the earth’s circumference being equal to zero and the “over sensitivity” of the modern generation, something exhibited by the man who he offended- a man who I would later find out has watched patients die. I sat, and listened, and did my job, and despite my discomfort, I believe I am better for it. I heard the other side, I satisfied my duties, and I got paid.

Connor Sciullo is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class

Excellence, like Rome, isn’t built in a day

Rome wasn’t built in a day. This phrase is heavily overused, but I love it. Many people envision becoming great and achieving excellence, but very few look into what it takes to reach excellence. My goal is to achieve excellence in hockey and make it to the NHL. I look to Rome as a prime example of achieving greatness, despite its creation story, riddled with dark events and hard times. 

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The legend tells that Rome was started by two brothers, Romulus and Remus. Left in the woods to die, a mother wolf found them, and raised them as her own. As the boys grew, their ambitions followed. They set out to build a city, a monstrous, seemingly impossible task, but one they believed was possible. They began to build the city, brick by brick, with no support, determined to reach their goal. While building the city, the two began to fight over which mountain to build the city upon. Romulus, coming to the realization that his brother Remus was sabotaging the building, Romulus killed Remus and named the city after himself… Rome. 

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Rome took thousands of years to reach its pinnacle, encompassing most of continental Europe, Britain, much of western Asia, northern Africa, and the Mediterranean islands. To become the towering empire it would blossom into, Romans looked to previous empires and civilizations for influence, most notably the Greeks, taking advantage of prior failures and successions to learn and improve upon. I use Rome’s creation story as an analogy for my goal to play in the NHL. While a daunting task, over time, I can develop into the professional player I see myself becoming. 

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The building of Rome can be an analogy for the hard decisions I have made to set myself up to reach my goal. From painful decisions of cutting off relationships with toxic friends, to not going to parties but instead practicing and devoting all free time to improving my game. While I am not at the pinnacle of my game, I’m a work in progress, constantly looking and searching for new ways to improve. Lou Holtz, a Notre Dame football legend, once said, “You don’t stay the same. You get better, or you get worse.” I take this mentality into every situation, striving to achieve my Rome. Working day by day… brick by brick refining my craft.

Ervie Terwilliger is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class.