Context is Everything

Gun control and the Yemen conflict; women’s abuses in America and women’s abuses in Iraq; food insecurity in the U.S. and famine in Venezuela. The contrast of these issues — of those that worry the everyday American and those that destroy the lives of people every day in countries across the world — can be a daunting one. However, comparing your life and your issues to those of other people in another country is a task fraught with risk.

We all heard the saying as kids when we wouldn’t finish our veggies: “There are starving kids in Africa who don’t get anything to eat — you should be grateful to even have this meal.” And while that might motivate you to choke down another asparagus stalk, that comparison is wholly unfair.

Comparing issues across national borders not only partakes in an irresponsible ignorance of the massive cultural and developmental differences between countries, but can also actually serve to worsen the disparity between peoples of different nationalities.

In his book The Broken Ladder, UNC professor Keith Payne spends hundreds of pages examining the overwhelming evidence that comparisons to people outside of one’s social and economic strata has adverse impacts on a person’s psyche and decision-making process. When we, as children, compare ourselves to those starving kids in Africa, it has two main outcomes. The first is that we come to understand that we have something, and those African children do not have that thing — in this case it’s food. Second, and more insidiously, we come to think of those African children as separate from us — as “the other.” And there lies the  true danger of cross border comparisons.

Too often, these comparisons are framed through the lens of difference — it’s easy to think, for example, that a Syrian refugee lives in a totally different world from us and is of an entirely different stock than us. They are, therefore, not one of us. This in turn makes it more and more difficult for us to empathize with their plight and fulfill our moral duty to help them.

While the differences among people of the world are undeniable, it’s also undeniable that we share one key feature: we are all humans. That’s what is important to remember when juggling with the issues that plague humans around the globe. Comparisons aren’t all bad, so long as they’re done in a manner that balances them with a consideration of the things that make us the same.

For each time that you fret over the political insecurity that’s displaced millions in the Middle East, remind yourself that those displaced humans have many of the same wants and needs that you do. They seek a roof over their head and a meal on their dinner table every night. And while most of us here at Carrboro are lucky enough to have those things, that doesn’t make us any better or any different than the people that don’t, especially as those who go without can be found in a tent camp in Turkey and in the seat next to us in chemistry.

200 Goals for Cox

On April 26, one of the best women’s lacrosse athletes Carrboro High has ever seen reached another milestone; senior Mackenzie Cox scored her 200th goal against Riverside, completing two centuries worth of goals over her four years playing for CHS. The goal came during this year’s senior night game, punctuating a 14-13 win for the Lady Jags.

Cox joined the women’s lacrosse team in 2015, her freshman year at CHS, and has started in each of her four years playing for the team. Over those four years, she’s accumulated 207 total goals, 220 overall points, and averaged 4.8 ground balls recovered per game. Those statistics have earned Cox three consecutive Carrboro Offensive Player of the year awards, with a fourth expected this year. Similarly, Cox’s on-field achievements have earned her a spot on the first All-Conference team for the past three years, with her spot on this year’s team pending confirmation.

“I was motivated by always wanting to play the best I could for my teammates and coach. I would also like to say thank you to all of the players and especially my dad that have helped me along the way because without them I never would have the amazing experience that I did on the Carrboro women’s lax team,” said Cox. Being the leader in all-time goals for Carrboro’s women’s lacrosse team is an enormous achieve- ment, and Cox credits hard work in getting her there.

“I never imagined being able to make a record like that,” Cox said.

In completing her two centuries of goals, Cox reaches a milestone that no other Carrboro student has before — Cox is the first and only Lady Jag to score over 200 career goals. Going forward, Cox looks to maintain involvement in lacrosse; she aims to play club la- crosse at UNC-Wilmington next year, and to coach and help out with youth teams in the area.

Cox credits those youth teams with giving her access to the sport early on, leading to her later success. For young players, she says, it’s vital to always give your full effort.

“Never let anyone tell you are not good enough to do anything,” Cox said, a fitting sentiment for someone who has accomplished so much.

Class rank: a broken system

For those who do not remember, or don’t know at all, CHCCS students take a math exam in the fifth grade that determines their eligibility for participation in an accelerated math track throughout middle and high school. Score in the 95th percentile or higher, and a student begins taking advanced math classes earlier than their peers, in turn allowing their high school GPA (and class rank) to rise.

Throughout CHCCS, this practice warps class ranks. As detailed
in a letter that the district has distributed — though not widely so — via email, CHCCS class rankings have an outsize dependence on a student’s math courses. This letter itself was written by former Carrboro Principal Dr. Laverne Mattocks.

In the letter, CHCCS’s class rank inadequacies are detailed: “By beginning high school courses in middle school, students on the accelerated pathways often complete additional advanced math classes in high school allowing them to potentially accumulate a higher weighted GPA than students who did [not] complete high school courses in middle school,” said Mattocks.

This system of sorting students into accelerated and non-accelerated math tracks splits them into two sections. One section is inherently restricted in their possible class rank and GPA achievements, while the other gets a head start on building a strong academic profile.

The manifestation of this effect is as follows: any student who did not gain admission to the accelerated math track in middle school is at an inherent disadvantage when it comes to their high school GPA and class rank.

How much of a disadvantage? Those students who did not take advanced courses in middle school and who continue on the standard math track in high school are unlikely, according to CHS parent Joy Diamond-Speer, to score a GPA high enough to put them in the top 30 percent of their class

Just let that sink in for a second.

The result of one math test, which students took in their final year of elementary school, is the determinant of whether or not they are easily able to achieve a class rank in the top 30 percent through all four years of their high school careers.

Not only does this class-ranking fallacy feed into the endemic achievement gap that CHCCS struggles with, it also disadvantages an even larger sect of students: those for whom math is not a strong subject.

This article is a challenging one for me to write, as I’m a student who has excelled at Carrboro High. I’m also seemingly anomalous when it comes to class rank; I was not a part of the accelerated math track, yet I have worked hard and achieved a top-tier rank.

The only way I was able to achieve that, though, was because I took advantage of something of a oddity in the math courses at CHS: Math III-PC. This means that I took Math III and Precalculus in a single course, which is something that currently entails a double period of math in a student’s schedule.

All of this is to say that achieving a top-tier class rank at CHCCS is already of outsize difficulty, yet it’s all but impossible if you are not a student who excels in their math courses as early as fifth grade.

The CHCCS district has met with CHS parents, including Joy Diamond-Speer, in regards to this issue, yet they “haven’t gotten clear information on a plan to change the system moving forward,” Diamond-Speer said in an email.

Furthermore, very little is being done to help current students understand the current state of class ranking at CHCCS.

There needs to be more transparency from the district when it comes to the system behind ranking students, as well as other metrics of student achievement in high school such as GPA. It benefits administrators, teachers and the student body alike for students to understand how these things work. We students are quite used to being compared, measured and scored, but we much prefer it when we know just how those things are being metered.

How to Drive: Merges

In the second in Jagwire’s series of road-education articles, I will explain an other misunderstood feature of the road: merging.

Seen on interstate on-ramps and instances when a lane ends, merging zones have been the subject of much scrutiny and research. Additionally, it continues to be a troublesome part of driving for many drivers.

There seem to be two schools of thought when it comes to how they work. The first advocates getting over proactively, as soon as possible — aptly named “early mergers.” The second purports waiting until the very last minute to merge. Numerous studies have investigated both strategies, and have time and time again proven that the second is both safer and more efficient for all drivers.

The easiest way to explain how merging should work is to visualize a zipper; two lanes full of cars “zip” together, with cars from each lane going one-after-another to combine the two lanes into one. It is not worthwhile to get over early, as this clogs up one lane while leaving the other wide open. This then creates dangerous situations as cars can come in at high speeds and pass many cars, which in turn can create road rage.

Merging is actually one of the most simple driving maneuvers, and can be very safe and efficient if done correctly. It might be hard to do the first few times — many drivers consider themselves to be very courteous, and don’t want to offend
other — but rest assured that by getting over later you are helping everyone get to their destinations sooner.

It should also be noted that when merging on highway on-ramps, it is the duty of all drivers to accelerate to high- way speeds prior to the end of the ramp. This ensures that merging onto the actual highway can be done safely, and also prevents accidents and rage from drivers still on the ramp.

As with roundabouts, the quicker that you can get out of everyone else’s way, the safer and happier everyone — including you — will be. So, next time you come to a merging zone, check your blind spot and think: “zipper.”

Illustration by Ryx Zan

It’s Round-About Time to Learn

Roundabouts. They seem to be popping up everywhere. There are three around CHS and more on the way throughout Chapel Hill.

Studies show that they are more effective in directing traffic than stoplights—something that the rest of the world has recognized for decades but the US is just acknowledging now.

One issue remains with roundabouts though: nobody seems to know how to use them. Here, in a new series from The Jagwire, is a guide for all the confused drivers out there.

As you approach a roundabout, first scan the entire roundabout surrounding roads and sidewalks for incoming cars, pedestrians, and cyclists. Focus especially on on any traffic that is coming around the roundabout from the left of your entrance.

If there is no traffic in the roundabout or entering the roundabout, you do not have to slow down or stop beyond the safe speed of the roundabout. Roundabouts are based around the idea of yielding, and when there’s no traffic in the round-
about, you need not yield.

If there is traffic in the roundabout, continue slowing until you can tell what they are doing — exiting before your entrance or continuing on. Cars inside the roundabout always have right of way, so do not cut in front of them; stop well before
the entrance of the roundabout and wait until they pass.

Once you’re in the roundabout, proceed at the listed speed limit of the roundabout to your desired exit. Never stop or slow excessively inside the roundabout, as you slow the flow of traffic and increase the likelihood of an accident.

The quicker you can get out of the roundabout, the quicker everybody can get where they’re going.

Now, signaling. Contrary to some beliefs, it is important to signal before and in roundabouts. As you approach a roundabout, signal as if it is a stoplight. If you’re in the roundabout and you note a car waiting in the entrance directly after your exit, it is a courtesy to signal with your right blinker as you exit, to indicate to them that they may enter.

Finally, some considerations for pedestrians. Pedestrians always have right of way, and as you are approaching a roundabout you should scan for people as well as cars. Especially at 3:55, be cautious of bicycles, pedestrians and reckless drivers.

Photo by Levi Hencke

Seniors lead lacrosse to strong season

A successful season, and a heartbreaking postseason result. With a regular season win over rival East Chapel Hill, and an early postseason exit, that is the story of the CHS women’s lacrosse team this year.

With plenty of senior talent, as well as up-and-coming underclassmen to fill in the gaps, this was a special year for Carrboro’s women’s lacrosse team.

Thanks to eight seniors, Carrboro beat rival East Chapel Hill’s team for the first time in CHS history, on March 21 of this year. “Beating East was the best part of the year,” said senior captain Abby Seagroves Reflecting on the season, Seagroves described the historic win over ECHHS—her favorite moment of the season—saying, “We were playing East, and we were up by five and then East came back and scored three goals and we were only up by two. We had two minutes left, and we just had to wind the clock down.”

Success doesn’t come from purely talent, as freshman Charlotte Ellis described the importance of team chemistry. She said, “I really liked the environment the team created. When I joined the team I felt like I had played lacrosse with them my whole life.”

With an 8-4 record, and ranked 25th in the state by MaxPreps, the success Carrboro had this year is undeniable. However, thanks to post-season scheduling that pitted them against a tough team in the second round, the Jaguars made an early tournament exit in their second-round game against Weddington.

Looking forward, Ellis says, “I am looking forward learning more about lacrosse, and I’m excited for the incoming freshmen to be part of the team.”

Seniors Abby Seagroves, Sarah Seagroves, Katie Fesperman, Katy Strong, Issy Chung, Emine Arcasoy, Flora Devonport and Taylor Gosk are graduating, but the team still has great talent. Strong junior talents of Mackenzie Cox—who led the team with 46 goals this season—and Sydney Mosteller, who was second on the team with 43 ground balls, hope to propel the team to success in the future.

Photo courtesy Sydney Mosteller. 

A fantastic obsession

It’s a sport that nearly 60 million people in the U.S. and Canada take part in, yet it requires absolutely no physical activity. The involved costs range from thousands-of-dollars all the way to zero. And around 32 percent of teens in the U.S. are players (FTSA).

Fantasy sports have seen massive growth in the past few years, with the number of participants doubling from 2009 to 2015. At Carrboro, it’s become a favorite pastime across grades and genders.

Fantasy football the most popular of the fantasy sports. Junior Karl Naomi attributes
its success to the combination of football being such a massive sport—one that “millions of people watch every Sunday, Saturday and is high Friday too with school [football]”— with the monetary benefits and “pride against their friends” that winning a league can earn someone.

One phenomenon that the growth of fantasy sports has brought is an increased interest in the sports themselves. One survey by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association found that 64 percent of fantasy players watch more live sports and 61 percent read more about sports as a result of playing fantasy sports.

Photo courtesy www.beckett.com

Karl Naomi again comments, saying, “I’m definitely watching more intensely when fantasy’s involved.”

When it comes to the success of fantasy sports, sophomore Tommy Holt considers the cause to be slightly different. When asked why they’ve risen to such heights, he alluded to science. “ It is because of the competitive human nature.”

However, the various types of fantasy sports aren’t limited to football and basketball. Junior Sydney Mosteller describes how her “friends like to watch [The Bachelor] together, so we thought it would be fun to enter and compete against each other,” and how the group formed a fantasy Bachelor competition.

The group went all out on the punishment for league-loser Millie McGuire, as Mosteller describes: “Each of us goes to Walmart and picks one article of clothing that’s super ugly, and then [Millie] has to wear the combined outfit to school.”

Rewards, however, can make competing very appealing. After beating CHS junior Joe Zhang in the championship of their football league, Episcopal High School junior Connor Kocis won over 200 dollars.
Clearly, there’s a lot on the line. When it comes to fantasy sports, with their growing popularity they’re just one more activity that students balance in their busy lives—but also one of the most fun.

And with so many ways and reasons to compete, it’s a trend that will continue to grow.

 

Commercialism: xenophobic, racist, and sexist

One of the most worrying aspects of our society is the extraordinary racism and sexism that continues to permeate it. Look around you—look at the UNC poster on the wall or the picture of Kim Kardashian’s birthday party from the Instagram feed on your phone.

Beneath the message they consciously display—that you like the Heels or that you’re in tune with pop-culture trends—can lie a more sinister one. Notice that the poster shows a black person who is famous for playing basketball while the Instagram post shows a white person who is famous for being famous.

This racial disparity is just one of the many forms of discrimination in our society today; others include the gender pay-gap or the intensely-negative sentiments towards Muslims.

However, more dangerous than just the existence of this discrimination is the way that it is perpetuated. Discrimination is peddled not only by bigots with orange faces, but also by the defining facet of our American society: commercialism.

Beyond various other material issues that this system creates, the far and-away worst part of commercialism is its ability to perpetuate cultural norms that are—very unfortunately— xenophobic, racist or sexist.

The genius of modern commercialism is advertising. The best advertisements have always been the ones that appeal to their audience on a subconscious level—they appeal to desires that I myself may not even realize I have.

It isn’t until I see my favorite rapper wearing Vans that—on a subconscious level—I realize I want a pair. While this subconscious marketing does fit into our increasingly globalized and capitalist world—a world that brings some marked upsides—it has some distinct downsides.

The negative side of advertising can also be seen in the Vans example; Vans uses Black rappers to market their shoes, preying upon the societal expectation that there is something cool about being black and making music to drive up sales. Black rappers aren’t often seen in advertisements for things that imply a more settled, suburban or white lifestyle—things like cleaning products or groceries.

This race-based divide in advertising is just one example of a plethora of discriminatory undertones perpetuated by commercialism. The effects of these undertones can be characterized only as extremely negative, and it’s something that I’ve recently begun to notice more and more in my daily life.

However, advertising isn’t the only industry guilty of perpetuating those aforementioned attitudes through certain undertones.

Hollywood executives will often point to the monetary advantages of sticking with their tried-and-tested formats for white male-led movies, but what they’re actually talking about there is the very cycle that reinforces this archaic discrimination. Because films with white male leads have been successful, their success is mostly ensured just by pop-culture inertia. Therefore, executives who are just looking to turn a profit have very little motivation to try an alternative film format—perhaps one with female or non-white leads.

Don’t take this as an attack on capitalism or Hollywood, though. In most cases (I would hope), companies don’t even know beforehand that their products, content or advertisements are having such a negative impact on the national consciousness.

Instead, all the companies see is the easiest way to extract the most profit. And without regulations or incentives to make or market their products in any other way, there’s simply no reason for anything to change—especially when their current methods are working so well.

The United States’ GDP in 2013 was sixteen trillion dollars (World Bank). around 65 percent, or ten trillion dollars, of that was consumer spending (Bureau of Economic Analysis).

If we assume that discriminatory attitudes permeate even half of the consumer products in the US, then the pure immenseness of this problem could create disillusionment with our country’s ability to combat it.

But any small progress counts.

The biggest action I’ve taken in my personal battle against misogyny and racism is pointing out instances of these discriminatory feelings, in the hope that by consciously acknowledging the feelings, I will be better able to not perpetuate them through my own actions.

My confidence in our country—and in turn the rest of the world—in overcoming these issues stems from seeing an advent of conversations around sexism, racism and many other pressing issues in the past few years. No progress in fixing something can be made before the problems are acknowledged and diagnosed, and that’s the stage I’m at now.

Now, of course, it’s easy to just talk about fixing something; the hard part remains ahead, in actually implementing definitive and meaningful measures to end these problems, likely in the form of legislation. That stage represents the true challenge and is something that we should all hope to be a part of.

 

Students on the Slopes

On Friday, February 3, seven hours away from Carrboro in temperatures that dipped into the single digits, 29 CHS students were ripping down the ski slopes. After waking up at 4:30 am and driving through the morning to get to Snowshoe Mountain, in West Virginia, everybody was on the slopes by 2:00pm. The group stayed two nights in the resort hotel. Most attendees skied into the night on Friday, throughout the day and night on Saturday and then on Sunday morning.

This was the second ski trip for the CHS Outdoor Club. Last year, a group of 25 students drove four hours to Wintergreen Mountain, in Virginia. This year, however, the club opted for the longer drive to West Virginia in return for Snowshoe’s guarantee: “more open terrain than any other ski mountain in the Southeast.”

The decision paid off, according to sophomore Alex Naismith, who said, “Yes, so much better—like one-hundred times better,” said Naismith when asked about his preference for Snowshoe.

While most of the trip’s attendees were fairly experienced skiers or snowboarders, some were still learning. CHS Junior Izzy Benson, for example, had not been skiing in more than three years before the trip. However, similar to everybody else, she said she had fun.

There was one attendee who didn’t have a good time: Camden Aguilar, who broke his collarbone
on Saturday morning. However, after being taken care of by Snowshoe medics, he was in good spirits during his recovery.

Sunday morning, after skiing for a couple hours, everyone packed their bags and got back on the bus. The group left West Virginia around 11:45am, leaving just enough time to get home for the Super Bowl.

After a weekend of skiing, and friends in West Virginia, all the returning members of the Outdoor Club are already looking forward to next year’s ski trip.

Behind the Legend of Ms. Uzun-Byrnes’ Cats

Nearly every student in Ms. Uzun Byrnes’ CHS English classes must’ve asked her the question. Conflicting claims and outlandish accusations have characterized the legend of Ms. Uzun-Byrnes’ cats for years. So, in this Jagwire-exclusive interview, we will finally learn the truth.

One of Ms. Uzun Byrnes’ cats, Zelda Sprinkles. Photo courtesy Ms. Uzun’s Website

This is an interview with Ms. Uzun Byrnes from January 25th, 2017. The JagWire has edited it for content and brevity.

JagWire: How many cats do you have?

Sibel Uzun Byrnes: I have eight—yes, eight—cats.

JW: Do you have photographic evidence of all eight?

SUB: Yes, just not like all together though. And not right here. When I say I have eight cats, people say, “What! No you don’t!” That’s their first response, and so then people say, “Well, let’s see pictures of them.” You know, I don’t feel like I have to justify myself.

JW: So, you’re tired of the constant questioning?

SUB: This whole interview is part of that!

JW: We’re just trying to get to the truth. What are your cats’ names, and do any of their names have any significance?

SUB: So, I have Zelda Sprinkles, Herbert Poindexter the third, Madeline, Holly and Lucky, Cooper, and then Lynx. Those are my eight cats. Wait—did I say seven, did I leave one off? Oh, yeah, Tristesse Eleanor. Some of them have literary meanings, and some of them are just names that I think are cute. Like Zelda, for example,  I named her for Zelda Fitzgerald—F. Scott Fitzgerald, he’s my favorite author, and Zelda’s his wife. But then, my husband named her Zelda because he likes Legend of Zelda the video game. So her name has a double significance.

JW: Is there any one thing—maybe an event, a person, or a particular cat—that created your obsession with cats?

SUB: I think my parents had a lot to do with that, because growing up I was actually never allowed to have pets. So, once I like graduated from college I just went the total other route and said, “Now that I can, I’m just gunna get a bunch of cats.” And, I’ve always been a cat-person because I just can’t really handle all of like the hyperactivity of a dog—the barking and the jumping on you. Cats are just—you know—[cooler].

JW: Do you ever talk to your cats?

SUB: All the time. I have conversations with them.

JW: So they talk back?

SUB: Okay…I mean, they do talk back because they meow. I feel like they kind of understand what I’m saying. I’ve read if you say “beautiful” to them enough, then they understand it’s a good word. So I call my cats beautiful all the time, and I have conversations with them.

JW: Did you buy your cats from a breeder or adopt them?

SUB: A lot of them…people will like post on Facebook: “Found a litter of kittens,” or: “Found this kitten behind a dumpster,” and then “Oh, I’m gonna  give them to a shelter and they’re gonna  get put down because I can’t take care of them because I have a pitbull.” Then, I’m always like, “Oh yes! I’ll take her! Please…don’t give her up.”

JW: Do you have any funny stories about your cats?

SUB: One of my cats, Zelda Sprinkles, I actually entered her into a costume contest last semester. I dressed her up as a crazy cat lady; she had a wig with curlers and a robe and mice hanging off of her robe. And she won! I felt bad, because I thought the prize was gonna be for her, but it was actually from Southern Seasons—it was a really nice gift basket for my husband and I.

JW: Do you have anything else you’d like to share with the school about your cats?

SUB: Yeah. I know that a lot of people don’t believe that I have eight cats. So, yeah, hopefully this interview will set the record straight.

Editor’s note: Ms. Uzun denied our request for photos of all eight cats, saying, “I like keeping an air of mystery around this topic.”