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Category Archives: 2021-2022 v.01 (Fall)

Women in Naxi Ancient Music

By ZiYue (Kelly) Yang, V Form

In 2020, ZiYue founded the Naxi Music foundation, which aims to preserve, empower, and inherit Naxi Ancient Music. She directed the following documentary, Women in Naxi Ancient Music (2021) as part of her ongoing mission to preserve the NaXi ancient music and raise questions about ways in which minoritized cultures from around the world survive can under conditions of rapid modernization and globalization.

Personal Finance for Beginners

By Yichen (Anna) Xing, IV Form

After graduation, many get their first formal job and start making money, but only a small percentage of young adults have the intention to manage their savings. Various reasons lead to the unawareness of the topic of personal finance, including the lack of financial education in high school, help from parents, or people who are simply ignorant of the benefit of having a lifelong savings plan. Some may question the necessity of developing a savings plan because they think they can live without worrying about going bankrupt, however, life is full of variables and uncertainties. As an introduction for beginners, this essay will provide an overview of topics related to personal finance, covering tax and benefits, tax deferred savings, interest rates, cost of living, investing, insurance, and housing.

To make a lifetime consumption plan, tax and benefits are always crucial factors to incorporate into your calculations because they are influential in many aspects of life. The most common tax categories include income tax, employment tax, sales tax, property tax, and estate and gift taxes. Personal income tax applies to most forms of income and increases with income. To calculate one’s after-tax income or the available amount for consumption, both federal and state tax rate needs to be incorporated based on the corresponding bracket. For example, if one earns $100,000 annually and lives in Massachusetts, that person will pay $14,605.50 plus 24% of the amount over $85,525, which is $18079.5 for federal tax and 5% of $100,000, which is $5000 for state tax. Employment taxes are used to fund social security and Medicare, also called FICA. For employment tax, employers and employees split the tax, each paying 6.2% for social security and 1.45% for Medicare, totaling up to 7.65% of their income. In this case, the hypothetical person will pay $7650 for employment taxes. For those earning high incomes, employment taxes have an upper limit of $142,800. Unlike income and employment taxes, sales tax is mainly based on state levels. Sales tax applies to most goods and services in the form of a given percentage of the price but with many exemptions. Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon currently have no sales tax. There are also tax-free weekends in 16 other states with different dates and rules. Property taxes include both residential and commercial properties and follow the state’s tax system with various percent based on the local city or town. This is a key aspect to put into consideration when deciding where to buy or rent because owning a property brings an extra financial burden. Estate and gift taxes are paid upon death and are applied at the federal and state levels. It is a relatively minor topic because according to the federal system, only gross assets that exceed $11,700,000 are subject to paying estate and gift taxes, with one exception of Florida, which has no estate tax. 

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Onlooker

By Lina Zhang, Class of 2021, Otis Winner (20-21 School Year)

The William Otis Smith Prize for English Verse is given in memory of a member of the Class of 1907 and is awarded to that student who, in the judgment of the English Department, has submitted the outstanding verse during the past year.

Yesterday I saw

The purple flowers 

Sweep across the branches

And caress the lonely bees

Two weeks ago mother said

They’d never bloom

It was too cold outside—then it snowed—then the wind 

That hurled itself against my window one night

Raging, and stole away the lights

As if it, too, wanted company

But left the flowers untouched

If just a little worse for wear

They seem, quietly, to have cheated death

There was no epiphany when the first bud bloomed

Just a picture

That I took behind the window

And deleted a few minutes later

When it came out the wrong shade

Accountability for the 400,000 Deaths: The RICO Act’s Application in the Legal Opioid Industry

By Holden LeBlanc, Class of 2021, Burnett Prize Winner (20-21 School Year)

The George Hall Burnett in History is awarded on the basis of a special essay in American history.

Carolyn Markland, a grandmother from Jacksonville, Florida, was a lover of animals and spent years fostering rescue pets after retiring as an environmental engineer. Markland, however, struggled with back pain due to a degenerative disc disease for years. After trying different medications with little relief, a doctor prescribed Markland the fentanyl-based drug Subsys to subdue her pain. Markland took a dose of Subsys before going to sleep on July 2, 2014. When Markland’s daughter went to check on her mother the next day, she discovered her dead in her bed with a Subsys canister lying at her side. Although Markland’s overdose was the first death connected to Subsys, many more were looming. Along with thousands of others, Markland died from overdosing on prescription opioids, but to understand how this happened, it is essential to recognize the changes in the United States’ policy towards opioids.

Opium, the active ingredient in opioids, is a substance that blocks pain by stimulating the release of the chemical dopamine in the body. Opium is a naturally occurring substance found in poppy plants, which humans have cultivated for centuries seeking their medicinal effect. For most of America’s history, up until the mid-twentieth century, doctors utilized opioids like morphine and later heroin as a crude form of anesthesia for surgery and for managing debilitating pain. After soldiers who received these powerful opioids became addicted in the early twentieth century, however, the United States government banned heroin and severely limited morphine use in 1924. Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, opioid use in the U.S. remained relatively low, as much of the population viewed partaking in drug culture as morally wrong and deviant.

Attitudes began to change with the counterculture movement of the 1960s which embraced drugs such as marijuana and LSD. These drugs, however, were expensive, and after a large segment of the youth became drug dependent, many turned to cheaper and more potent alternatives, including heroin. The heroin epidemic was even worse among Vietnam Veterans due to the large supply of the drug in Southeast Asia, which grew vast amounts of the poppies used to make heroin.2 In response to the increase in drug use within the civilian and military population, President Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs in 1971. Initial efforts to stop the flow of drugs into the United States, however, provided little help. Between the years 1980 and 1988 alone, the number of heroin users increased by 750%.3 Because of the widespread abuse of opioids like heroin throughout the 1970s and 1980s, doctors seldom prescribed legal opioids such as Vicodin out of fear of addiction.

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Butterfly Jar

By Lina Zhang, Class of 2021, Redmond Prize Winner (20-21 School Year)

The Redmond Prize for English Narrative is awarded to the student who, in the judgment of the English Department, has submitted the most outstanding piece of narrative during this academic year.

Today I can go out and play before dinner because my sister is home and she’s cutting the grass to feed the ducks and the big white goose we have in our front yard. Papa says we’re lucky to have ducks because we can sell the eggs, but I think they’re loud in the morning and the goose always looks at me mean like it wants to chase after me and peck me in the butt again the way it did when I was three. But today I don’t have to care about the goose or the grass that cuts my hand when I go at it with a sickle or even the cicadas that go “fifififi” up in their trees until the sun goes down. Today I’m going butterfly hunting. 

There’s always butterflies where I live, even in the winter if one lays her eggs near someone’s home and baby butterflies hatch too early, but it’s summer now so they’re everywhere. The little boy next door taught me how to make a net from a stick and a piece of cloth, and I brought an empty glass jar to keep the butterfly once I catch it. There are a couple small white butterflies but they’re ugly, there’s one with orange and black stripes and white dots sitting on a flower, that’s the one I want. 

I do a couple of practice swings in the air and my net goes whoosh whoosh whoosh like someone is trying to whistle. I swing and miss, the butterfly flies away like it’s scared. I wait and soon enough it comes back to the same flower, silly butterfly. This time I am not so clumsy and get it in my net, I see it scrambling around against the fabric before I scoop it into my jar and twist the lid tight so it doesn’t fly out again. I’ve always wanted a butterfly but never had time to catch one, now I have my own. My sister tells me they start as baby caterpillars and then break a hard shell around them called a cocoon and then they’re butterflies. She knows everything.

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A Journey Without Destination

By Carl Guo, VI Form, Coleman Prize Winner (20-21 School Year)

The Coleman Prize in English is awarded to the student, who, in the judgment of the English Department, has submitted the most outstanding essay during the academic year.

In the book The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald presents a delicately crafted social commentary on wealth, class, and the American Dream through a tragic love story between Gatsby and Daisy from Nick Carraway’s perspective. Fitzgerald’s compelling narrative skills allow him to present multiple facets of the same coin and allow room for readers’ interpretations; one can find textual evidence for a variety of conflicting arguments. For example, many people read this book as a criticism of the futile American dream, but one can also appreciate Gatsby’s possession of at least some sense of ambition and contrast it to the utter emptiness of Tom and Daisy. Instead of giving a clear argumentation, Fitzgerald harnesses the power of ambiguity and epistemological uncertainty to ask the audience, symbolized by the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg, thought-provoking questions but intentionally leave the answers blank. He does so particularly with the portrayal of Gatsby’s mysterious backstory, the vague American Dream, and Nick’s development as an unreliable, non-neutral narrator. 

The mystery of Gatsby’s identity is a prominent theme pushing the storyline throughout the book. Before Gatsby is formally introduced to Nick at his party, he is already a heated topic in others’ discussions. During the dinner in Chapter 1, Jordan asserts adamantly that “[Daisy] must know Gatsby” and makes Daisy confused about Gatsby’s identity (Fitzgerald 11). This quote indirectly shows the widespread fame Gatsby accumulated. However, most people only know Gatsby as a rich man who throws grandiose parties but nothing of his true identity; this uncertainty creates dissatisfaction and incites curious minds to speculate on it. Therefore, rumors, such as that “he killed a man once” and “he was a German spy during the war,” brew in this environment (Fitzgerald 44). The audience reading the book is no different from the party crowd, pulled by their curiosity to read more about Gatsby; this similarity is one of the many inferences about the readers’ role Fitzgerald sets up in the book. 

Gatsby himself actively enjoys being the subject of this conundrum since he is willing to forget his poor uprising to better fit in as an “old-money.” He purposefully establishes his mysterious character by claiming that he is from “San Francisco” of “the Middle East” (Fitzgerald 65) or boasting about his Oxford education even though he admits that he only “only stayed five months” (Fitzgerald 129). This juxtaposition of contradictory information not only discredits Gatsby’s character but also alarms the audience to review these facts with more skepticism. This skepticism pushes for more scrutiny to distinguish the truth from the lie, which Fitzgerald champions as a response to this uncertainty. 

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Holding the Line on Title IX

By Natalie Zaterka, VI Form, Shen Prize Winner (20-21 School Year)

The Pledge of Allegiance states we are “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” My hope is that one day these words will ring true because these ideals are essential to America’s democratic promise of equality for all. Since the United States’ founding, women have made great strides towards equality. We have protested, shattered traditional gender norms, and achieved legislation such as Title IX, which outlaws discrimination based on gender in any schools that receive federal funding, including in its athletic programs. But even after all this work, we have not achieved equality. Title IX may have expanded democracy for women, but discrimination and inequality for female athletes still continues today. 

Title IX was transformational for women’s athletics. According to The Sport Journal, this legislation produced a surge of participation in women’s sports from less than 32,000 intercollegiate women before Title IX to 200,000 intercollegiate women and 3 million high school girls in 2010.  Colleges and universities created more sports options for women allowing them to compete at a higher level, but despite this progress, gender discrimination still cast a shadow over American athletics. 

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Ely Speech by Yunxuan (Coco) Chen, IV Form, Eli Prize Winner (20-21 School Year)

The Ely Prize is presented to the student who gave the best speech in the III Form Global Seminar Public Speaking Competition each spring.