Ramblings… Trial by fire

Written by: Landon Watford

I have always had crazy ideas. Not necessarily good or bad, right or wrong, just objectively crazy. Take for example, when I asked my mom if I could perform the song “I’m Sexy and I Know It” with four of my fellow friends at the fifth grade Valentines Day party. The plan was to choreograph the dance (to something very close to what the original music video had, wiggle and all), buy us crazy wigs, and make rippable pants that we would tear off to reveal superhero underwear underneath at the climax of the song. Any sane parent would have taken me to a psychologist. My mom said she loved it.

My father, however, was completely opposed to the idea. This was far too inappropriate for his taste and for the son which he planned on molding into the next Peyton Manning, this was sacrilege. After much debate, we came to a compromise. I would be permitted to perform the dance so long as the choreography was not too explicit and I used superhero boxers rather than the more exposing underwear. I went on to perform the dance about two months later and I have had nightmares about it since.

I am not so concerned with publicizing this horrific story more than I am concerned with the balance between criticism and encouragement. I think we can agree that too much of either produces very negative effects: too much criticism leads someone believing they can do nothing, while too much encouragement results in them believing they can do anything. But a healthy dose of both is undeniably necessary to keep your ideas in check. So if criticism is critical and encouragement is encouraged, then where is the fine line?

It is certainly a hard balance to strike, but luckily my parents figured out a pretty good system, even if by luck. My mother takes the pro-Landon stance in almost every scenario and is convinced I can literally fly to Pluto and back with a ball of yarn and a paperclip. My father, however, serves as the antithetical and could not believe I could tie my shoes properly if I did so upside down. Their two varying biases allow my ideas to be properly curated and counterbalanced. I am not saying I am the prime example of a mentally sound individual, but seeing as I have not murdered anyone yet, I would say I am doing alright.

Unfortunately, I have met plenty of people who have not yet found this balance in their lives, and oh boy can you tell. The overly criticized husk sits moping in the last safe corner of their conscience, the final bastion where they are not brutalizing their every word, step, and dream – utterly ambitionless. The overly appreciated snowflake, in contrast, broadcasts their rays of mediocrity across the planet, perceiving themselves as an unstoppable, one of a kind titan – positively invincible.

To find a middle ground means that you are better able to assess your good ideas from your bad, as well as giving you a vital dose of humility. Your judges do not have to be parental figures either, just make sure you are associating with people you can trust to both criticize and encourage you. This will allow you to have far more thought out and simply better ideas. It also makes you more capable of avoiding cringe-worthy mistakes like performing an appallingly explicit song to your elementary school classmates and faculty. In my case, if I had not listened to my mother I would have never had the courage to perform, which, as embarrassing as it is to look back on now, eventually led me to develop a passion for performing. If I had not listened to my father, however, I would have walked out on stage swinging around my thinly covered gonads, resulting in a life lived in the rec room of a psych ward.

Why there should not be a divide between arts and STEM

Written by: Rani Jivani

STEM. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. A four-letter word that everyone perceives differently. Some believe it should have the greatest focus, while others think the arts and humanities should take its place. There is no single defining point that makes STEM the greatest area to major in, rather the opinions and statistics that make it seem stronger and favorable. Teachers and students have been arguing over which one is considered better: STEM or STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics).

Much of this debate arose a little over than a decade ago.  In 2007, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics magazine published an article titled “What Can I Do with My Liberal Arts Degree?” which in short asked the question in a condescending manner.

Since then, the increase in STEM education has raised the concerns about the value of a liberal arts education. The majority of people have the conception that STEM is superior to the humanities. However, we should be emphasising the benefits of the arts. It goes beyond reading books; it opens one to the ideas of the world and encourages one reflect on them. Those who study humanities not only gain skills to think critically and write clearly, but they are able to provide an alternate viewpoint on important issues. Leaders and decision makers are able to run a successful business because of the people they employ that have a broad range of ideas and opinions.

There is no doubt that STEM classes have top priority while the humanities are pushed to the side. At school, this divide between students is extremely prevalent. Even though we are a STEM based school, a well balanced education is necessary to further excel when leaving high school. We are fortunate to have the resources for students to take as many sciences as they want but the question is what about the other side of the spectrum. Students here can take up to three science or math classes, but are only limited to one English class. Students who are deeply curious about the works of Dickens, Brontë, or Austen are limited to only one class to explore their horizons. On the other hand, those who enjoy equations and numbers can spend hours at a time to explore it in school. In addition, there is a strong unspoken opinion here that those strong in subjects such as the sciences and mathematics are considered smarter than those who are more inclined to the arts and humanities. What makes numbers and equations more valuable than drawings and books? If someone is interested in delving deeper into the meanings of literature rather than the laws of gravity, why should that person have to feel inferior?

Even though there is a quantitative imbalance between STEM and the humanities here, I feel like the qualitative differences are more detrimental. As I walk through the hallways between classes, I see that almost everyone is bonding over their anxiety for their impossible STEM class, mostly physics and calculus. I rarely hear this for any English class, for that anxiety is talked about for a couple of minutes, then overtaken by their math or science class. Those that suffer through physics are regarded as smarter, while those who are talented writers and artists do not get all the credit they deserve.

The difficulty of a class for a student does not measure their intellectual capacity. All it means is for each person, certain modes of thought just come more naturally than others. As individuals, we tend to like doing what we believe we are good at, and the more we do something the better we get at it.

“I believe having a well rounded education is important. In addition,  people should be more accepting of all forms of intelligence, whether that be in the arts or the sciences, neither one being stronger than the other one..” said AS Literature teacher Mr.Partagas.

When you look at two different people, one that is gifted in science and the other in English, they are equally as smart but in different subjects. Instead of dividing ourselves over these differences, we as a student body should embrace what each of us loves doing and accept that each one of us is our own kind of smart.  

The Beacon’s Belief: The importance of voting

With the midterm election just on the horizon, the bi-annual scramble to get the American youth off their butts and go vote has officially commenced. Historically speaking, the fight seems futile: the 18-29 year old age group has voted the least out of any age in group in America in almost every election. But behind the gargantuan wall of historical trends and voting statistics, I see a glimmer of hope in our generation.

According to the United States Census Bureau, 46.1 percent of citizens from the age of 18-29 voted in the 2016 election. If you want to think of it as a competition, we are in last place, by far. The next to last are the 30-44 year olds who sit at a measly 58.7 percent. In other words, we are not doing nearly enough.

So why do you care? Why should you even vote? Well, for starters, it is your civic duty. Before you roll your eyes at me, hear me out. Once you turn 18, you become a legal adult; aka a full participant of our society. For better or worse, this is how it is. Do not give up your right to change the course of the country (a right people have fought and died for, by the way) just because you are too lazy to inform yourself.

Yes, you read me correctly. YOUR VOTE MAKES A DIFFERENCE! Despite popular belief, your vote does actually matter and, in fact, dramatically influences the course of the country. Almost all significant changes that our country has gone through have been from people working within the system to fight for change, not fighting against the system itself. And you especially cannot start a civil war by retweeting in your PJ’s, so until that day, I suggest you get to the voting booth.

On the campaign trail, President Trump promised to rid Washington of corrupt politicians by “draining the swamp” and placed the blame of the perceived inefficiency of our nation on the national government. Whether you agree with this statement or not, those politicians do not just pop up out of nowhere. We vote them in, or more accurately, you don’t vote them out. Despite his best efforts, Trump, or no other one person, can “drain the swamp,” we must.

If your argument for not voting is “I do not know anything about politics,” then we agree, you should not vote. Nonetheless, that is not an excuse. Take a few hours before an election to read up on the candidates and what they have to offer. Do not just listen to Sally Sue gossip about the candidate with a “weird smile” during 5th period. Find your information from the horse’s mouth. Ignore slanderous hate ads and go directly to each candidate’s website and see what they have to offer. It does not take long and you can even make a cheat sheet for yourself to bring with you to the voting booth.

Above all, adults do not want you to vote, which instantly makes voting cool. Think about it, why does it seem like every politician is an old white man? Because historically that is the population that votes the most. Politicians barely spend time listening to the youth because they (rightly) assume we will not vote anyway, so why should they care. So this November, or for any future election, be the coolest kid on the block and go down to your local voting station and show these old politicians just how wrong they are.


The Kavanaugh Conundrum

Written by: Skye Hervas-Jones

Today my Uberpool driver, a young cuban, who arrived in Miami only two years ago,  asked if I could tell him what I thought about America as a country. Within a few blocks we picked up another passenger, he began the conversation by asking: do you think America is the best place for women right now? I knew they both expected me to say yes, but in fact all I could do was blurt out, “No! This is not the best country for women,” envisioning the enraged rant of Brett Kavanaugh and the controlled tears and sincerity of Christine Blasey Ford.

After listing the multiple countries such as Sweden, The Netherlands and Denmark who rank far higher than America in success of women in culture, entrepreneurship, heritage, business and quality of life.

Both men in the car were surprised by my reaction, I began expressing my feelings on how women’s rights are in disarray. After the Kavanaugh hearing,  I personally realized two different things. First the Supreme Court which I have been taught in school is the highest moral and ethical meter in our government that bases their decisions on facts, is really now just a political organization driven by partisan politics. Secondly, and personally more crushing and frightening to me as a woman, only two years older than Ford was at the time of the sexual assault,  is that no matter how many women are in power it still boils down to the fact that the Brett Kavanaugh’s of our nation will be forgiven by a white male power elite who think that if a 17-year-old boy sexually assaults a 15-year-old girl 30 years ago it is irrelevant and even a joke, because it was all about beer, beer and a little more beer.

I and millions of other women believe Ford when she came forward putting herself at a great personal risk and with nothing to gain, when she said she was 100 percent sure it was Kavanagh. But I also believe that it is very likely that Kavanaugh does not remember it, not because it didn’t happen but because he never considered it noteworthy seeing as he got away with it. That is the message that I am being sent, the partisan power elite says it’s okay for boys to be boys, that it is ok to sexually assault women, and that our voices must be kept down by either ignoring women who complain or shaming women who come forward with accusations. Even now with the #MeToo platform,  it is still an enormous struggle, and every woman will be doubted and humiliated if she comes forward with the truth of what happened to her.

My fellow car passengers and some of my readers may be thinking what I’m saying holds no truth because there was no proof found against Kavanaugh. It is difficult to find evidence when the FBI only spent less than three days to uncover an event 37 years years ago. This was not a trial. Ford did not have to defend herself and prove Kavanagh’s guilt. This was a concerned citizen doing her civic duty at the job interview of her attacker.

For a second put yourself in her shoes, imagine as a freshman you were sexually assaulted by a drunk senior, imagine the humiliation seeping into you and the wall you build around your self to keep the memory as faint as possible. Imagine the thought of having to tell your story to the world knowing you would be shunned and distrusted. This is everything Ford felt and more, and when she heard that that same man that destroyed her at such a young age  was running for the position as one of the highest moral and ethical leaders of our country she knew that it was her civic duty to at least try and stop him.

By the time I had finished talking, my co-passenger had jumped out at the stop light with the determination to never start a conversation asking if this country is the best places for women ever again.  

Ramblings…Crossing the threshhold

Written By: Landon Watford

Finally, eighteen-years old, a legal adult. Over a decade of listening to NPR and only occasionally taking out the trash has prepared me for this moment. I can see myself now: lounging in a casino with a lottery ticket in one hand and a vape in the other, a pack of Redwoods in my lap, sitting on a throne of presidential ballots, jury duty notices, and army enlistment forms, all complemented by a flying dragon tattoo located just above my ankle monitor. Not only will I get all those totally awesome things, but my mentality will be different too. I am an adult: a sophisticated, thick-walleted, self-reliant adult. The only problem is… I do not feel any different than I did before my birthday.

Maybe my expectations were too high. I am sure that within the next month I will be filing tax returns like it is nobody’s business. Still, I am dumbfounded as to why I did not have an instant transformation into an adult, like the legal system led me to believe. Even though my birthday was enjoyable, I can not shake the feeling that it was somewhat anticlimactic.

Ever since I was in middle school I wanted to be a grown up. They had it all: freedom, independence, and best of all, no homework. As a little sixth grader that could not make his own lunch and whose sense of humor had failed to rise beyond mere flatulence noises, becoming an adult was a fairly big aspiration for me to strive for. And a lot has not changed since; though I have become more emboldened and motivated throughout my high school experience, astonishingly, fart jokes still give me a good giggle.

Despite being more developed, I still do not feel that I have truly matured. At eighteen, I am still living with my parents, still enrolled in public school, and still friends with the same people I met back in freshman year. In other words, I am a loser. It is impossible to grow, after a certain point, if I have been living in the same environment with the same people for an extended period of time. This is why I believe college is the final hurdle between youth and adulthood. Being placed in an entirely different surrounding, on my own, will expose me to new experiences, both positive and (more importantly) negative. These experiences also serve as a lesson that will teach me how to live independently- a lesson no public school can teach. Though the thought is terrifying, it seems like college may be my last chance at becoming a well-adjusted, functioning member of society rather than an immature, Cheez-It munching, hermit.

Even though my eighteenth birthday did not live to the fantastical expectations I had set, I have learned something far more valuable. It is not an arbitrary number that makes me an adult, but rather, it is time, experience, and loss, that will mature me into the man I will inevitably become.

“Queerbaiting” for ratings needs to stop

Written By: Isabella Zimmermann

A myriad of television shows and films, such as Supernatural, Riverdale, Voltron, and Fantastic Beasts: 2, have come under fire in recent years for accusations of queerbaiting. While some of these are not exact examples of queerbaiting, some exploit the LGBTQ+ community for monetary gains.

So what even is “queerbaiting”? Queerbaiting is the act of alluding to a same-sex relationship between two characters in a television show or film, whether it be through the use of subtle hints or jokes, only to have the relationship never actually become official. The controversy arises through the belief that queerbaiting does not represent the LGBTQ+ community, nor will it ever.

The motive behind queerbaiting is that companies want to appeal to a wider audience, more specifically, people of different sexualities, in order to earn more viewers and profit. People tune in hoping to see a glimpse of representation in the mainstream, only to be left disappointed. The relationship is never fulfilled, and the companies end up with no repercussions.

However, these actions are exploitative of the community and their desire for more diversity in film and television. Queerbaiting is simply a cheap tactic to give the illusion of adequate representation, when in fact, there is none. Companies do not care about being inclusive; they only care about earning more viewers.

One may argue that queerbaiting is just audience members looking too deep into subtext and subtle hints, and that there never was any tension between the two characters at all. Though I have watched an abundance of shows where the utilization of queerbaiting is apparent.

For example, in Riverdale’s pilot episode, the promotional video for the episode includes a clip of the two female leads kissing. In the episode itself, the two disregard the kiss immediately after. To insert that one clip, especially in the first episode of the series, only to dismiss the kiss as “pretend,” demonstrates that that same-sex interaction was implemented only to attract the attention of the LGBTQ+ audience.

“My whole thing about LGBTQ+ representation, especially with gay men and trans men, is that they are seen as clowns or comedic relief. Gay women are represented, but it is mainly for the male gaze,” language arts teacher Lindsey Peters said, “We heteronormalize things to make the majority comfortable.”

I believe queerbaiting takes up space that could be used instead for the addition of real, same-sex relationship representation in films. To remove that space, clogging it with non-official same-sex relationships, is not only destructive to the industry, but harmful to those who might not feel accepted by the mainstream and only find comfort in the arts and entertainment.

Persons of diverse sexuality status do not want to be seen as inferior to straight people. To capitalize off their desire to be seen as normal in mainstream television and film is outright impertinent and a step backwards in the fight for more inclusivity. A fight that has already been a struggle for numerous years.

The fact that there is still an ongoing struggle to depict healthy, day-to-day same-sex relationships is still a shock to me. A change for more inclusivity in television and film must be set into motion to prevent the exploitation of the community even more, and it must be done now.

In God We Trust: New Florida state mandate

Written By: Julia Cooper

As an overwhelming wave of “new” additions to Mast occurs this year, one  not-so discreet sign located in the main office window of the Florida state seal that reads in bold letters,“IN GOD WE TRUST” has been added. This statement which has been Florida’s official state motto since 2006 has recently been mandated by the State Legislature to be displayed in a conspicuous place in all public schools.

This initiative was passed as a companion bill under House Bill 7055, which is a lengthy education bill that sparked controversy in the legislature itself. Now that this is a reality for all public schools in Florida, we must ask ourselves what this means for us as both students and Floridians.

It can be argued whether the motto itself  adequately represents the state of Florida. I would beg to propose that it does not, on the grounds that it contains no defining characteristic that resonates with the state or its entire population.

Our motto is unlike many other states, who’s state phrases are reflective of their characteristics. Perfect examples are Alaska’s “North to the Future” or Tennessee’s “Agriculture and commerce” to which most, if not all the people of those states can understand as being part of that state’s culture.

What is happening now in regards to this new policy is a direct opposition to the idea of separation of church and state that Thomas Jefferson, one of this country’s founding fathers often argued.

Further evidence that this mandate goes against what we as Americans stand for lies in the first amendment of our Constitution. The first amendment prohibits the government from creating laws “respecting an establishment of religion.” In other words, the government is not allowed to establish an official national religion or show favor towards one religion over another. This ideal should be upheld across the United States and is especially important in public education because schools are a place where children of all backgrounds come to learn and be productive citizens that contribute to the welfare of the nation.

“It’s disturbing,” physics teacher Dr. Julie Hood said.

Hood, who is an atheist and proud member of the LGBTQ community believes that just as Christians are entitled to have their own beliefs she has “a right to be an atheist.”

This is true and in line with what our Constitution sets up as precedent for how we should operate as a country. These rights are infringed when religion is imposed on us in schools.

The students at Mast come from all sorts of religious backgrounds and many may feel alienated by the “In God We Trust” motto because “we all know what capital-G-God refers to…the conventional white Christian God,” Hood said.

Education should never be a place of division by gender, race, sexual orientation or religion.


The “Stand Your Ground” law causes more violence, not less

Written By: Daisy Hoover

On July 17, a Clearwater man was killed in front of his five year-old son over a parking dispute. His killer initially walked free from the scene and it took three weeks and considerable public pressure before he was even arrested. Such inaction in the face of tragedy like this is only possible in our home state of Florida, with its scarily loose Stand Your Ground law.

        While many states have stand your ground laws, Florida’s stands out. Here, Stand Your Ground allows shooters a ridiculous amount of leeway. First of all, a shooter “does not have a duty to retreat” (the exact wording in the Florida constitution). They have no responsibility to deescalate a situation, even when they have the opportunity to do so. Second, the burden of proof in a Stand Your Ground Case lies with prosecutors, not the defendant. It is presumed a shooter is justified in killing another human being. It is up to the prosecution to prove they are not.

        The Clearwater shooting is a reminder of the dangers of the Stand Your Ground Law. An altercation over a convenience store parking spot turned fatal, raising concern that similar minor disagreements could result in a loss of life.\

It should not be that easy for someone to be killed over something as inconsequential as a parking space, and yet in Florida it is. In a time of heightened scrutiny over gun control, Stand Your Ground should not be overlooked. We put all this energy into making schools safer, yet we put little effort in making our day-to-day interactions safer as well.