Progressive Shifts in Standardized Testing and Education Due to Covid-19

By Matthew McKoy ’22

Following the outbreak of the coronavirus, many schools as well as students across the nation, have gradually begun to adapt to the major shifts in the educational system that are currently taking place. After a state hearing held on 20 March, the United States Department of Education concluded that students would not be able to perform to their full potential under these harsh conditions. Henceforth, Secretary of the United States Department of Education, Besty Devois, was able to amend the federal law, which instituted that all standardized testing be cancelled for the remainder of the school semester. Immediately, the educational system within the United States experienced a domino effect. Not only would this have an effect upon the systems within the primary levels as well as high school, but this new law would lead many collegiate universities to label themselves as test-optional in their selection of the Class of 2021, in the Fall. As this law gained the popularity of many students worldwide, it has gradually given the birth to a new movement that will possibly not only institute a provisional change in the system of standardized testing in this year alone, but it can possibly lead to a permanent change to this system in the years to come.

As many collegiate institutions such as the University of California have gone test-optional, many other universities have decided to extend their test optional period for its applicants. Yes, you have read this statement correctly. Although many schools have chosen to go test-optional for the Fall of 2021, this period may be extended over the course of three years, and possibly for any other collegiate selection process in history. An example can be taken from competitive schools like Tufts University, who has extended their test optional period for three years. As this has gained conflicting views from high school students across the nation, it has helped to give rise to a new campaign highlighted by the slogan “#TestOptionalNow.”

“Student Voice” is a student-run non-profit organization that has advocated that other colleges as well as universities adhere to test-optional policies, due to many incidents that indicate the misuse of standardized testing.  Jerome White, a spokesman for the College Board says: “The health and safety of students is our first priority and we are collaborating with higher education institutions to provide flexibility to students and to support admissions under these unprecedented circumstances.” As this movement has gained the popularity of many students nationwide, there are many conflicting views on collegiate universities extending their test optional period. Many parents, along with students, believe that this test optional period has deprived them of a fair opportunity in regards to their future education, as well as their future careers. However, as the “Student Voice” continues to gain more popularity around the nation, the 51 schools that have signed off on the test-optional policy do not meet the required percentage for this policy to be made a part of the federal law. Only time will tell the changes that will take place in standardized testing.            

Although the test-optional policy had a significant impact on the system of standardized testing worldwide, another factor that contributes to this recurrent progressive shift is the cancellation of final exams. The months of May and June serve as a massive study period for many students across the world. With that being said, due to the ongoing circumstances, as well as the integration of distance learning in education, many schools have decided to cancel final examinations. As this may seem like an advantage for students, these schools have decided to extend the school year for about one week. Along with the extended school year, students are still required to complete one final assignment given by the teacher, in order to receive credit for a final grade. As courses are now attributed as pass-fail, students are still required to work hard up until the completion of the school year. These final assignments still possess the weight of a final grade, and are still considered to be a decisive factor as to whether students are able to pass the semester. 

Many teachers, parents, and students are adjusting to the new reality of distance learning. As there still lies a high probability of change, distance-learning has slowly become the new norm for our system of education. As a variety of school systems continue to adapt to these changes, we must remain patient and wait for the best. Do you agree with these changes? What possible outcomes do you see that can possibly influence the future of education in the decades to come?

Xenophobia in China At an All-Time High During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Diego Javier ‘22

In troubling times like these, the COVID-19 outbreak tests our morality and our mental fortitude. This pandemic has shown us that it can bring out the worst in people and also can bring out the best in all of us. We have people that have shown compassion to others through these hard times like one landlord that waived the rent of April for 200 tenants in Brooklyn, but also those who are hoarding toilet paper and still going outside to public places such as beaches, which will only help the spread of the virus. In China, however, many foreigners feel unwelcome and have experienced xenophobia during this pandemic. 

Ever since cases of the coronavirus have been decreasing in China, the government stated that the virus had arrived in China by people abroad.  Because of the government’s statement, foreigners in China such as the African community there have felt unwelcome. There are at least 16,000 Africans living in China, with the majority living in the city of Guangzhou. Guangzhou is a city known for being a flourishing trading city that is considered a cosmopolitan city.

However, in Guangzhou, the local government there had placed orders that resulted in all African nationals in the city to be quarantined for fourteen days and also be tested for the coronavirus. They all had to be tested regardless if they didn’t have the coronavirus. The government’s statements also left some unrest in the people. The Chinese people started to become afraid of foreigners and started to discriminate against the African nationals living in their city.  Many Africans have been subject to discrimination and have been evicted by landlords and were left homeless. It also caused some to lose their jobs such as teaching English to Chinese students because of the students’ fear of getting the virus.  Also, some luxuries have also been revoked. Restaurants refuse entry to foreigners and people try food-delivery services that allow people to buy food without having to go outside and risk getting the virus would not deliver food to the African nationals. Diplomats from the Nigerian consulate had to distribute food to the Africans that were suffering on the streets.

There is also anti-foreigner sentiment running rampant online during the outbreak. People on sites such as Weibo express their opinions on them, feeling as if foreigners have more benefits than the regular Chinese citizen. The racist remarks in China are running rampant and the government has done nothing to censor it. The government has done nothing to educate the Chinese people on the topic of being politically correct or start-up campaigns to end racism. This is seen during the 2018 edition of the CCTV New Year’s Gala, where they included a sketch where a Chinese actress wearing blackface and in fake buttocks in order to depict an African mother. There was also a racist Chinese detergent commercial where a man of African descent was forced into a laundry machine and after being in there for a long period of time, resulted in him being transformed into an Asian man. The Chinese government did nothing to condemn these racist acts, resulting in the public thinking its okay to treat Africans and anyone of a different color this way.

The international community has not reacted positively to the prejudice against Africans and other foreigners. The speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, wrote: “The leadership of the House of Representatives has expressed displeasure over the inhuman treatment meted out on some Nigerians by the Chinese authorities in Beijing” on Twitter. This shows the relationship between China and Nigeria has been strained and needs to be repaired.  The reaction to the overall treatment towards foreigners in China has been negative and this is a situation that needs more awareness.

In a time of fear and panic, China has shut its doors on foreigners that are trying to make a better life for themselves and immerse themselves in the culture. They have created a culture of hate and xenophobia that has ruined their international stature and reputation. This pandemic has shown us how far down the rabbit hole we can go in terms of how we dehumanize people and forget the virtues of compassion and charity.

Apple and Google’s Response to COVID-19

Matthew McKoy ’22

Bluetooth technology: in our modernized and technologically advanced society, bluetooth technology has proved to be a sufficient resource in our daily lives. Bluetooth technology has not only allowed us to establish a system of wireless communication between smart devices, but it has also allowed us to create an electronic line of communication between one another at a low cost. You may be asking yourself in this present moment the true significance of bluetooth technology, as it is ever so often used frequently by the average person. Have you ever wondered if bluetooth technology had the capability to be a revolutionary factor in the use of medical technology?

Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, scientists, along with many other medical experts have taken many disciplinary actions in order to contain this worldwide pandemic. However, with a death toll rising exponentially, as well as a retrogressive growth in the number of cases within the United States alone, scientists are in a race against time to find a viable and effective solution to this crisis. What if I told you that the answer that scientists have been looking for, lies in the use of a recurrent form of technology. YES. Bluetooth technology has served to be the solution that scientists have been looking for all along. Most importantly this race against time may have reached its termination, as two of the world’s leading innovators in smart technology join in unison, in order to help bring about a revolutionary technological advancement that will ultimately help in the restoration of society.

Both Apple and Google have been leading revolutionaries in our day and age. As both companies have rivaled and competed for the highest rank in smart technology, Apple and Google have come to a mutual agreement to end this rivalry during this time of crisis. Instead, these companies have chosen to invest their time into the safety of humanity, by developing a mobile application which can help to contain the spread of the ongoing coronavirus. Known as “Trace Together,” users will be allowed to enroll themselves in a program instituted by local health care authorities. Once this application is installed into a smart device owned by the user, they will then be able to keep track of any nearby contacts with other participants who have installed this application, and have enrolled in this worldwide health program.

Essentially, users are not required to disclose any personal information on this application. Primarily this software will help in reduction of long-term tracking for scientists, as it will allow its users to report whether or not they have been diagnosed with the virus. Once the users disclose this information in terms of whether or not they have tested positive, other users will then receive a notification via bluetooth software, which will help to inform them whether or not they have come into close contact with those who are infected. It is evident that Apple and Google have not only created a new technological innovation, but they have helped in the disbandment of loose ends on the COVID-19 infection chain, as they have now created a new age in medical technology. 

Eventually, Apple and Google plan to incorporate this Bluetooth application into their own personal softwares. The companies plan of integrating this application with Apple’s iOS, as well as the operating system used by Google Androids. Essentially, this will allow users to rely less on the app itself, and help in the improvement of many other people who may not be able to download the application. Just last week, Apple and Google were able to improve the overall logistics of the application itself. With the new updated version, the Bluetooth software limits the possible exposure time to 30 minutes, allows its users to set their own distance and exposure times, as well as providing more definition in the messaging notification to its users. This improvement will allow scientists to figure out not only who has been exposed, but it acts as a contributing factor as to when people have been exposed to the coronavirus. As the application used by Apple and Google coincides with all iPhones  running iOS 13, as well as systems running the Android 6 update, there is no doubt that this application will serve as a beneficiary to all, as it applies to an innumerable number of smart devices.

As these innovative actions have been taken by Apple and Google, society will ultimately experience a metamorphosis in the field of technology. Not only will this application be beneficial to the United States, but it can serve as a beneficiary factor to countries which are underdeveloped. Over the course of history, many third-world countries have suffered from the devastation of the impact from a series of viral outbreak. If we as a society are able to fund these countries with this technology, this will ultimately alter the course of medical technology. This application can help to bring about a new age in terms of tracking viral infections, and which can help us to prevent devastating impacts from possible viral outbreaks in the future.  

 

       

 

The Short Lived Experience of Group B Rally

Brendan Byrne ‘22

The history of motorsports has some of the most fascinating and exciting stories sports as a whole has to offer. From NASCAR to Formula 1, and from endurance racing at Le Mans and Spa to rally racing in the rolling hills of Wales, Germany, Chile, and so many more locations, we see deep histories with huge names, well known for their advanced skills in some of the fastest paced racing capable of man. The specific branch of motorsport with one of the most colorful, confusing, fascinating, and ultimately very short-lived histories however, is a specific branch of rally racing, the infamous Group B Rally.

Group B Rally was a division of rally racing that came about in the 80s, and what had differentiated it was that homologation rules, the rules regarding required production numbers of the vehicle, as well as specific specs and limitations to performance to allow the car to compete, were extremely lessened, to such a degree where they were nearly irrelevant. Instead of the usual requirement of 500 production vehicles, the number was reduced to 200, and each year in Group B an “evolution” model could be introduced. What this meant was that a more powerful or modified version of a vehicle could be made each year, and that special version only needed to have 20 production models What this did was allow manufacturers to create far more beastly machines, which went down in history as some of the fastest, yet horrifically undrivable, machines to ever grace the dirt roads. 

The cars themselves were what solidified Group B’s infamy, not only at the time, but in all of motorsport history. Some of the most well known and successful vehicles from Group B include the Audi Sport Quattro S1, the Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 E2, the Lancia 037, the Opel Manta 400, and the Metro 6R4. The Audi Sport Quattro S1 is one of the tops of the most famous Group B vehicles from this era. Having been the frontrunner of the races for so long, it became an icon in the racing community, and even up until today is the car often used to represent Group B when discussing it. It’s entirely possible you’ve seen it many times before without really knowing what it was.

Starting in 1980, the Audi Sport Quattro began its mass production as a rather unassuming, yet proficiently performing 2-door Coupe. The vehicle was AWD, fairly light, and was already showing success in harsh conditions like in rain and on dirt, making it perfect for rally racing. With some heavy modification, including a power boost all the way up to nearly 700 horsepower. This amount of horsepower is absolutely ludicrous, surpassing most supercars, and nearly all supercars of the time. This would help the vehicle reach some outrageous, and dangerous, speeds.

Audi

What made this incredibly powerful engine so interesting in the way it functioned was that it was the first ever vehicle to utilize what was called “Dual-charging”. Not to be confused with Twin Turbos, meaning two turbochargers affixed to the engine, the Audi’s engine used both Twin Turbos and a Supercharger. The Twin Turbos allowed for the massive spike in power at high revs, and the Supercharger eliminated the primary problem with Twin Turbos, that being “turbo lag.” “Turbo lag” is an issue where when an engine is at low revs, the Turbochargers won’t produce any power, leaving the engine very weak and slow in comparison.

The Turbochargers spin faster based on the revs of the engine, and the faster they spin the more air they suck in, allowing for the engine to produce more power. The Supercharger almost eliminated this problem because the Supercharger was able to create consistent, albeit less than the turbochargers, power at lower revs. The use of “dual-charging” allowed for this vehicle to have incredibly consistent power, as well as incredibly high power, something which other vehicles would have to decide between instead of utilizing both. Another fairly significant vehicle in Group B Rally was the Lancia 037, the car known as the last RWD vehicle to be somewhat successful in Group B.

Group B thanks to its ludicrous pace and minimal room for error was dominated by the AWD monsters that were easier to drive, could accelerate faster, and generally were able to put down power more efficiently. However, the Lancia 037 did have its specialties, as a RWD drivetrain is far lighter than an AWD drivetrain, putting the Lancia at a weight advantage, and because of how it was structured, the vehicle was at a special advantage on tarmac courses. On tarmac the RWD wasn’t a problem since the tires could easily grip and still push the car very quickly. The issue came in on the specific dirt and gravel courses where any driver no matter how experienced would struggle keeping its rear from stepping out and spinning. 

Lancia

Another RWD car also existed in Group B, the Opel Manta 400, but this car ended up fading into obscurity as it did not have the advantages present in the Lancia, and did not find nearly the same success. The Peugeot 205 was another standout from Group B however, and one of the biggest winners alongside the Audi Quattro which had somewhat of a rival in it. The interesting thing about the Peugeot 205 was that it wasn’t just a modified version of a production car like many of the other Group B cars, but was purpose-built for Group B much like the Lancia Stratos was for Group 4 where it became one of the most successful and famous rally vehicles ever. It got to the point where for a time the Quattro was almost totally outrun by the Peugeot, for the Quattro was being pushed to its limits while the Peugeot was only at the beginning of its lifespan. 

Peugeot

Once the later years of Group B came in, the Audi Quattro and Peugeot 205 continued as the two frontrunners in Group B, developing further and faster and leaving the RWD Lancia 037 in the dust. 

Group B was probably the most exhilarating and exciting sport to both be a part of, and to watch, and as the main attraction is with a lot of racing, the main draw of Group B rally was the danger of the races. Thanks to how fast these cars were, they were known for being incredibly hard to control, and crashes of great spectacle would occur very often. At first this was treated like any other motorsport, such as NASCAR, where crashes were accepted as an inevitability, but unfortunately things eventually started to go too far. On multiple occasions there were tragic crashes that killed multiple spectators, and at points resulted in the deaths of some of the most proficient and talented Rally Drivers, and motorsportsmen in general, ever seen throughout history. A large problem with Group B, and rally as a whole, is the fact that there are no designated spectator zones, so therefore spectators line the entire course along the edge where with one wrong move a vehicle could plow down an unassuming spectator who was trying to get a decent picture or a better view.

The speed of Group B only added to this problem as the drivers hardly had time to react were this to happen. The 1986 season of the rally group was where things finally began to fall apart, and the first crash of the season was the true sendoff to Group B. At this point people had finally begun to realize that this type of racing was far too unsafe. The crash was in Lancia’s AWD vehicle, the Lancia Delta, driven by Henri Toivonen and his co driver Sergio Cresto. Both of these men were highly respected in the rally racing community and both of them died immediately upon impact on this date. Drivers began wanting out after a soon following crash of a Peugeot 215 that crippled a veteran racer, as many began fearing that they themselves would end up crippled, or worse. On March 5th, the most tragic crash of Group B happened when Joaquim Santos lost control of his Ford RS200 and plowed into a wall of spectators. Approximately 31 were very severely injured, and 3 of the spectators died immediately. Finally the story of Group B, the most dangerous of any motorsport to ever exist, came to a close. The exhilarating spectacle of the ludicrous vehicles was lost to history, and rightfully so. No matter how innovative the cars were, no matter how exciting it was to watch, the danger couldn’t be ignored, and the cars seen in the races faded into legend. 


Seen here is the gruesome crash of Henri Toivonen and his co driver Sergio Cresto:

Exercise in Response to Idleness

Andrew Bondarev ’22

The recent Coronavirus outbreak has led to a social epidemic of mass isolation and loss of real life human interaction. This loss of connection can lead to increasing amounts of stress, anxiety, and hopelessness in an age where we have all of the novelty we could ever want on the internet, without the relationships we really need. In order to fully battle this predicament, a multi-habit replacement and adjustment would be needed, but a possible first step could be learning to avoid idleness and move. One of the absolutely most effective remedies to battle the constant cortisol influxes and the crises that arise from a pandemic would be simple systems of habitual home exercise. There is a fine line between training and overtraining, but generally, a simple 30-45 minute regimen of movement and increased blood flow to your muscles can lead to a more stable alignment between your mind and physical health. Moreover, a reliable and useful idea regarding home workouts could be progressive overload, which means that you can start with the basics of exercising and progress yourself slowly onto higher intensity movements or loading weight on them. 

From anecdotal and personal evidence, I have personally found a sense of clarity regarding my actions for the rest of the day simply from utilizing bodyweight push-ups, squats, and crunches through my workout regimen. Adding these movements to my everyday life radically changed the way that I perceived my diet, hydration, and sleep patterns. Therefore, emphasizing exercise as an integral part of your schedule during quarantine is a keystone habit that can set off a ripple effect concerning your overall health. 

You can gradually start getting a wider variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole foods in your diet as a result of creating discipline in what you consume and act out. My personal experience also indicated that once I began implementing this routine multiple times on a weekly basis, I had no desire to drink any harmful and high-calorie sodas or brand-name coffees. In addition, it allowed me to truly focus on consuming and enjoying the simplicity and satisfaction that comes with water, without the constant dopamine that floods your brain when drinking a high-sugar substance. Lastly, when it comes to sleeping, a completely sedentary lifestyle during quarantine is not ideal and can lead to going to bed and sleeping in significantly later than your average routine, which can negatively impact our school work and overall productivity. This is where I can provide a certain non-dogmatic but honest guideline that can assist with this process of regulating energy levels. If you can get in enough movement to where you are tired enough at 9 or 10 P.M. to go to sleep, then that amount of walking and exercise has reached an adequate level, at least for quarantine. This notion creates a completely new spectrum in terms of the benefits of home exercise or socially distanced walking during this time. 

All in all, the necessity of exercise, no matter how simple it can be, is based on the notion that as human beings, we can use movement as a way to cleanse our minds temporarily from the baggage, boredom, and absurdities that come with living during a pandemic. This is a completely new experience for all of us, but remembering that this place of confinement has good that will come out of it is a decisive factor in deciding to honor our potentials, mentally and physically. Hence, habits created during this time can be catalysts for the people that we become when we exit this pandemic, and thus exercise is a good starting point.