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Category Archives: 2020-2021 v.04

Spiritual and Intellectual Challenges

By Daniella Pozo, V Form

Spiritual and Intellectual Challenges

In “Teddy,” J.D. Salinger provides the reader with an onslaught of observations and religious teachings in order to challenge even the most highly educated. Through Nicholson’s eyes, the audience feels hostility towards Teddy stemming from deeply ingrained American close-mindedness. How the reader experiences the ensuing conversations depends on one’s ability to welcome doubt. The core story is not meant to sway one’s spiritual beliefs in any direction but rather to make one aware of how susceptible or hostile they are. Themes of American elitism and consumerism seep into Nicholson’s everyday life and nearly keep him from considering any outside perspectives. Through the character of Nicholson, Salinger challenges the reader to focus on nuance and open consideration of ideas instead of focusing on the objective correctness or conclusion to spirituality. 

Nicholson is introduced as a young man with “a kind of poise about him” and wearing a jacket “properly aged in some of the more popular postgraduate seminars at Yale, or Harvard, or Princeton” (Salinger 76). The audience identifies with Nicholson because he seems to be respectable and highly educated. Among his circle, there exist two views: those who are premature to devalue radically different ideas and those that hail those ideas as pure genius. Teddy is a novelty to the Leidekker examining group who choose to play his tape at a party, a setting that trivializes Teddy’s insights and the research process. Nicholson does not approach Teddy out of good faith or love of research but rather because he wants to disprove Teddy for his own ego. He interrupts Teddy and disrespects his beliefs by calling them “mystical” (78). His voice and demeanor falsely suggest that he is above most Americans who do not want to engage with differing ideas. When Teddy decides to teach and ask him how he knows his arm is truly an arm, Nicholson is defensive. This reaction aligns with the resistant attitude American audiences may feel towards Teddy’s personality, insights, and spiritual beliefs. Unfortunately, Nicholson can not understand the merits or downfalls of Teddy’s arguments until he can genuinely engage with them first. Salinger is demanding the audience set aside any preconceived notions so they may understand “what [their] arm really is, if [they’re] interested” (79). In order to read Nicholson’s journey and draw conclusions, readers must balance their American socialization and academic nature. 


A Response to Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb”

By Sophie Chiang, IV Form

A Response to Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb”

Editor’s Note: IV Form students in Ms. Lauren Kelly’s Survey of Literary Genres course were asked to craft a poem in response to Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

“We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised, but
whole; benevolent, but bold; fierce and free” (Amanda Gorman).

Make America great again,
They chant ominously.
A sea of red-hatted zombies,
Brainwashed and hijacked by this view
Of a beautiful country.

“Go back to Chyyna!” he sneers,
Teeth bared and mocking.
What he doesn’t know that in China,
The people call America “mei guo”,
meaning beautiful country.

How could it be that this land
Is beautiful?
Where first graders hide under decaying desks
And in dirty bathrooms
To live past the gunshots?

Is it really beautiful,
When people who possess skin
That is too dark to be worthy,
Face brutality and discrimination,
Terrorization and demonization?

We will not make America great again,
In all honesty,
it never was.
We will not march back to what it once was,
But move on to what it will be,

United and free,
Compassionate and loving,
Bold and brave,
Fulfilling the prophecy of “mei guo”,
A beautiful country.


Ethics of the Food Industry and Meatless Diets: A Skit

By Fiona Tran, III Form; Laurie Wang, V Form; Padma Mynampaty, V Form; and Elise Gobron, VI Form

Ethics of the Food Industry and Meatless Diets: A Skit


Physics: A Rube Goldberg Machine

By Maddy Bean, III Form

Physics: A Rube Goldberg Machine


Rationalization and Belief Systems

By Suha Choi, V Form

Rationalization and Belief Systems

“Post-truth,” defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief,” was selected as Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year in 2016 (Oxford Dictionaries, 2016). This definition of the term presents an interesting point of discussion: If we are living in this so-called “post-truth era” in which “belief” has a more significant impact and “appeal” to society than truth, how will it affect mankind? To help answer this question, psychologists have investigated how we construct belief systems to understand the world and behave. After examining various cognitive process models that explain how such belief systems are formed on the individual level, I realized that rationalization is integral: we rationalize all the time to understand the behaviors of ourselves and others better. As Cushman (2020) pointed out, rationalization is indeed one of the most exhaustively documented in psychological investigation: cognitive dissonance (Festinger 1962) and self-perception (Nisbett & Wilson 1977); both have rationalization at their heart. This essay, however, will focus on the process of rationalization on the collective level than on the individual level because we are “deeply social animals” and our ecological success significantly depends on “our capacity to exchange and aggregate information” (Henrich, 2015; Richerson & Boyd, 2008) and form beliefs on the collective level. Graham (2020) poignantly pointed out, “when groups collectively rationalize their actions, entire networks of beliefs and desires can be created and maintained in the form of shared moral narratives and system-justifying ideologies.” At times, however, these cases of collective rationalization come “at the expense of the truth” and can therefore result in ethical consequences in society. Borrowing Cushman’s representational exchange concept to explain individuals’ mental processes that produce beliefs, I will first point out that our tendency to believe what is useful over true is inextricably linked to social learning. While this tendency originates from the fact that humans are social beings, I argue that we can ultimately utilize this sociability to externalize the socially learned psychological processes which have previously been left implicit in our mind. Doing so will increase human flourishing; cooperative communication with our social partners can correct our existing beliefs as well as reduce the possibility of forming inaccurate inferences about the world in the future.


Remote Student: An Emulation of Kincaid’s “Girl”

By Yolanda Zhou, III Form

Remote Student: An Emulation of Kincaid’s “Girl”

Editor’s Note: In Writing Workshop, III Form students read and analyzed Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl.” They then composed their own emulations of the story to capture life as a St. Mark’s boarding, day, or remote student while employing the style of Kincaid’s writing. This piece describes Yolanda’s experience as a remote student during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wake up at nine or ten in the morning, do your morning routine: brush your teeth, wash your face, eat breakfast, and then do your homework; make good use of the time zone difference: assignments due 12am there is next day’s 1pm your time, so be sure to sort out which ones you’re doing first; don’t leave your stuff till those three to four hours because you’ll be sleeping late at night and won’t get much time to do them; but do use this time effectively if you feel overwhelmed; use the “Modules” function and “Week Overview” in each course on Canvas to sort out every assignment in the week using the academic planner; it shows you everything that’s due this week so you don’t have to waste time or miss assignments; color-code your planner: use red for unfinished homework and black for completed ones; don’t procrastinate, it does no good to you; focus on one assignment at a time; eliminate outside distractions; get everything done as quickly as possible so you have some free time for sports, instrument practice, or relax; How am I supposed to balance all these things with so much homework?; you’ll have plenty of time to do so if you listen to and follow instructions; don’t miss your classes, don’t forget to do your homework; email your teacher and explain if missed your class; create alarms on your phone and calendar if necessary; make sure your Wi-Fi connection at home is stable for your online class; install Zoom and log in with your St. Mark’s email address and password, that is where you go to all your classes; install multiple VPNs on your phone and computer before school starts so you’ll know which ones work and which ones don’t; set up everything your teachers ask you to set up in the beginning of the school year; use passwords and accounts that are easy to memorize, you don’t want to forget your login information the first day of school; this is how you interpret your schedule; this is how you deal with internet issues; this is what an asynchronous class look like; this is how you find the links to the synchronous sessions; this is how to find the replays after classes; this is how you explain to your teacher if you missed your class; this is how you write an email if you submitted your homework late; this is how you should reach out to your advisor; go to bed immediately after class, your classes will end early in the morning; don’t do your homework after your last class, you won’t be able to wake up the next day; do your homework earlier, don’t save them till 1 o’clock in the morning; play sports and work out every day, it helps alleviate pressure and keeps you in shape; look for something to motivate you if you feel bored, like watching Formula 1; treat your homework seriously; don’t submit things later than they should be; But what if I submitted an assignment only a few minutes late?; you think anyone is in the mood of caring whether you’re late for a minute or an hour?; late is late, don’t find excuses for yourself; there’s no guarantee that submitting things late will leave bad impressions to your teacher or if they’ll deduct points in your work, so you’d better get them in on time; maintain high quality and efficiency when you’re working; take a 5-minute break for every hour of work; push yourself so you can learn; balance it with relaxation and exercises so you don’t go crazy; reach out for help whenever you need them to whoever can help you; good luck in your time at St. Mark’s!