Going against the flow


Abby Kempf

Cooperation, not competition, leads to success

Fellows mentor David Graham believes success is subjective, but far too often students associate success with grades. Students could also be successful at church, school, band, choir or athletics, Graham said.
“So what does success mean? It means what you want it to mean in areas you deem worthy of your passion,” Graham said. “I think we’ve been fooled into thinking that there’s one defining measure of success.We need to rethink that as individuals.”
For senior Jett Ballou-Crawford, success means being happy. Ballou-Crawford said there are no strict definitions of success because it depends on an individual’s interests. While Ballou-Crawford does not know what she wants to do career-wise, she has always known she wants to go to college.
“Where I’m headed…I’ll have a major in some sort of science field but I might change it, like maybe I’ll start in biochemistry and decide I want to go into biomedical engineering. I’m hoping to kind of find it out in college,” Ballou-Crawford said. “My mom keeps saying, ‘I still don’t know what I want to do with my life, and I’m 54,’ because she’s been an accountant and a vet, a stay-at-home mom [and] now she’s a nurse, so it’s O.K. to change things as you go.”
Along with being happy and defining success for oneself, Ballou-Crawford said the steps one must take to become successful are specific to an individual’s objectives. To reach her goal of going to college, Ballou-Crawford said she worked to keep her grades up, volunteered and took a leadership role with RBRO.
“I’ve tried to get all the things colleges look for,” Ballou-Crawford said, explaining that she sees her preparation for future success as a step-by-step process. “I’m being successful right now because that’s what I want to do in the future to have future success.”
Ballou-Crawford said RBHS can be supportive of students who know what they want in the future. However, she said, when students need help, the help is not just readily available. Rather, students must grab onto it.
“Even if you are a straight-A student, nobody in guidance is like, ‘How are you doing today, do you need help applying for this?’ If you need help, you go to them. You have to track down people who can help you and they won’t always be the most forthcoming,” Ballou-Crawford said. “I’m just imagining [that for] people who are less forceful and less determined to get to a certain place, it’s going to be difficult for them.”
In addition to seeking help from guidance, students can look to each other for support. Graham said in an ideal world, students should work together and help each other do as well as possible. Furthermore, he said it is a huge mistake for students to define their success by their grades and standardized test scores, and it is also a mistake for students to compare themselves to other students to determine their own success.
“Perfect for me would be that it would be a complete team effort, that students pushed each other to do well not at the expense of someone else but for the benefit of someone else and so it wasn’t a zero sum game,” Graham said. “And kids came into it with an understanding of … ‘Here’s where I came into this class, here’s what I’m leaving this class with, was I successful?’”
While Ballou-Crawford said students must seek help, in her experience RBHS is a place that supports all students and gives equal opportunity to be successful. Since RBHS doesn’t rank students, it does not affect her 4.0 GPA if someone else has a 4.0, she said. Students don’t have to destroy each other to get where they want to go.
“We’re all friends, and we can all be successful. I visited [Washington University] and they’re specifically like, ‘We like people who are going to work together. We don’t want those type of people who knock others down or try and destroy them to get ahead,’” Ballou-Crawford said. “It’s definitely something you see in college, so I think you’re getting prepared for that at Rock Bridge.”
For sophomore Aline Nene, support and help from others has been an essential component of her education in the United States. For nearly 15 years Nene lived in the Democratic Republic of Congo and dreamed of going to school so she could eventually become a doctor, but with fluctuating wars she and her brothers could not attend school regularly. Now though, Nene has access to an education and the ability to realize her definition of success, which is to spend her life helping others.
Nene said learning English is important to her future success because she wants to stay in America and go to college after she graduates. Eventually, she said, she wants to learn a lot of languages so she can communicate with people from different countries. For right now, however, she wants to focus on improving her English so she can take more science classes.
“I think my English improved because of lacrosse girls because the way we usually talk, and then when we travel and we usually talk, and when we are eating we talk, and we talk; we talk,” Nene said. “I take a lot of classes [now] because, I think, my English improved a lot. Last year I was taking not very much classes but now I take a lot of classes.”
In the time she has been in America, Nene has not forgotten the friends, neighbors and countrymen she left behind. Sometimes she thinks about her life here and knows others don’t have access to the education that she does, or don’t have shoes or clothes that she has.
“I think I didn’t do [anything] so that they could come here in America to learn,” Nene said. “I know a lot of people who were my friends, they died, or [stayed there], but I’m still alive. I think that’s why I really need to help. I don’t care if it’s my country or where but I just need to help children who are suffering.”
By Emily Franke

Subconscious subordination

Last year, freshman Sonya Hu’s class split into groups for project work. Her fellow group members did not take the assignment seriously and did not seem to want to work, so Hu divided up parts of the project in order to try to finish on time.
Just as Hu thought her group was making some progress, she heard another group member call her a “bossy b****” behind her back. When the agreement of the other members pierced her ears, a suffocating feeling of frustration and injustice rose up. Why were they acting like this? Hadn’t she just seen a boy also take charge in a similar manner while his group members thanked him for his help? Why was she being called that name?
Just one year later, Hu said she finally understands.
“With the status quo in society, it’s typically seen that guys are superior and have the right to be assertive and tell people what to do, while girls don’t,” Hu said. “But that’s not right, and it’s why whenever they see a girl acting in a similar manner they’re like, ‘That’s not allowed.’”
Hu said her behavior was not controlling at all, and she was merely trying to help out. She believes if she had been male, the other members, who were all boys, would have responded to her with a more accepting manner.
“They called me bossy and believed that I was trying to take control of what was going on,” Hu said. “But without a leader they would have been in complete chaos.”
Michelle Gerchen, RBHS civics and sociology teacher, said the perception that assertive women are controlling is representative of the sexism that some believe no longer exists in America.
“Today people think there’s no more sexism because women can be CEOs; they can build themselves up,” Gerchen said. “When really there’s a lot of stereotypes that are still there, like there’s still a stigma that if you want to be a successful business women you can’t have a family.”
These stereotypes have also pervaded Gerchen’s own life, even infiltrating her professional one as a teacher. She said in particular that she has noticed differences in how people react to female versus male teachers.infographic-pay-gap
“If I ever say that I’m a teacher, they go, ‘Aww, you’re such a cute teacher; you wear teacher clothes. It makes sense,’” Gerchen said. “If a guy were to say, ‘I’m a teacher’ they would say ‘Oh, I would never have known that.’”
What Gerchen describes is a form of sexism based on a social theory called “microaggression theory.” According to Columbia University, professor Derald Sue in the research paper Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life, microaggressions are “…brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative racial slights and insults…” This term was first limited to describing racial injustice, but has been broadened to gender microaggressions as well.
Junior Kelley Tackett said expectations for women that adhere to archaic views on gender are a particularly virulent form of microaggressions, or “covert sexism.” She believes society still looks down on women who defy assumptions of how a woman should act.
“There’s a status quo of women staying low, and when they try to break out from that, they’re not expected to, so it’s really hard to find the role models,” Tackett said. “People who try and break out from the status quo are shamed for attempting to be different and veering away from traditional moral values and the traditional home life.”
This aversion to leaving the “good ol’ days” is something Gerchen has witnessed in her time teaching history and sociology. She said her students will occasionally say things that demonstrate internalized gender stereotypes about the roles of men and women in society.
“For example, if I was talking to my students about money they would mention their dad, and if I talked about laundry they would mention their mom,” Gerchen said. “Historically, men were seen as the money maker, going to the bank, and women were known as managing the household, cooking [and] taking care of children. So when they say these things it sounds like we’re still back in the 1950s.”
Tackett said this kind of subtle sexism, if not addressed, is dangerous to the future state of gender equality. She believes until the status quo changes in such a way, a woman who achieves power and prominence is no longer considered differently from her male counterparts, society cannot declare that sexism is over.
“There’s just all sorts of instances in society where we women act in a similar way to men and we’re degraded and ashamed for it,” Tackett said. “There needs to stop being a double standard for actions that women have compared to men, so when a woman takes on a position of power, it no longer has the effect that she’s a woman; it’s just another person doing their job and living their life.”
Still, others, such as junior Reagan Soumokil, say sexism and microaggressions specifically do not play a major role in their lives. Soumokil said she has not encountered anything that would embody microaggression and does not think they constitute a major harm to society.

“With the status quo in society, it’s typically seen that guys are superior and have the right to be assertive and tell people what to do, while girls don’t,” freshman Sonya Hu said.

“I honestly don’t think they’re that big of a deal in my everyday life,” Soumokil said. “I don’t think it occurs that often.”
Soumokil further said while she knows sexism has not disappeared, she believes gender equality has progressed to a point where there is no longer a need for increased focus on the issue.
“I’m glad that we’ve come so far with [sexism], I think in America we’re pretty equal,” Soumokil said. “I don’t want to say that it’s completely gone, but it isn’t really a problem any more.”
In contrast, Gerchen said she thinks it is not right to say that sexism is not a significant issue in society anymore, and believes that those who hold such beliefs should try to increase their awareness of the gender prejudice that may surround them.
“Until men and women are completely equal in all aspects of life, there will be sexism, and right now there are still stereotypes and stigmas and generalizations,” Gerchen said. “If someone says that sexism isn’t here anymore, they’re not really looking, and I think those are the people that need to start looking.”
By Jenna Liu

Burmese genocide lacks attention, continues: Social media fails to expose mass crimes against Rohingya Muslims

They traveled on foot, sleeping where they could find shelter. Some fell sick, others died and many were caught before they could escape. The voyage from Burma to Thailand is no easy task; it is a long and dangerous journey. Despite the risks that await, many choose to take this path; they see no other option.
Sophomore Bwet Paw was just six months old when she made this journey with her mother and siblings. Despite leaving as an infant, the time spent in Burma forever shaped the life of Paw and her family.
Their crime: being a part of an ethnic Kachin minority.
Their punishment: seizure of land, death and rape, to name a few, as well as execution by the Burmese government and military with extreme brutality and no hesitation.
“The Burmese army was trying to attack us. They tried to take our land,” Paw said. “It’s a really bad story. If my grandpa didn’t come back to take us, we maybe would have died there, but luckily my grandpa took us to Thailand.”
Like Paw, many of her neighbors and friends fled Burma before going to Finland, Australia and America as refugees. Others, including members of Paw’s extended family, did not make it out and still remain in Burma. While the life she lives as a refugee is not easy, Paw said, the life that awaited her and her family if they had stayed in Burma would have been far worse.
“[The Burmese army] tried to get us to be a part of them, but we don’t like the way they tricked us; they took our land,” Paw said. “And at a young age, boys have to be soldiers. If you don’t, [the army] can kill you. For girls, if [the army] wants anything, you have to do it. If you don’t, they will rape you or sometimes kill you.”
From 1962 until 2010, a military junta ruled Burma and held absolute power over all affairs of the nation. Four years ago, a series of democratic reforms took place and the people of the nation, as well as international leaders, began to see hope of a fair, free and democratic election in Burma’s future.
However, as of now, the military still holds most of the power in the country. This power and influence is used, among other things, to persecute the Kachin people.
“Sometimes, the soldiers try to take our people,” Paw said. “When our people die, we bury them … When [the army] found out we buried our people … they take out our dead and tie them to a tree.”
Her story, however unfortunate, is not unique. The largest ethnic group in Burma is the Burmese people, and the majority of Burmese practice the Buddhist religion. Kachin and other minorities such as the Karen, Shan, Rakhine, Mon, Rohingya and Chin, all face persecution and violence from the government, military and Buddhist extremists for differences in ethnicity and religion.
From among these groups, the Rohingya Muslim, comprised of around one million people, face the most severe persecution. Recently, the Human Rights Watch released a report detailing the suffering of the Rohingya. In addition to violence at the hands of Buddhist extremists, the report states the Burmese government is facilitating the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people from Burma.
“The plight of the Rohingya Muslims has definitely not received enough attention by the media and society, if any at all,” senior Fariha Rashid said.
Two summers ago, senior Fariha Rashid designed and sold shirts in an attempt to spread awareness of the plight of Burma’s ethnic minorities. Purchased mostly by friends, family and members of the Columbia Muslim community, Rashid sent all proceeds from the shirts to the Helping Hands Burmese Relief Fund.
“I decided to make [the shirts] because it was about an issue I really had not heard anything about and I was shocked when I found out what was happening to the Rohingya Muslims,” Rashid said. “ I just couldn’t comprehend how this entire genocide was going on, and no one seemed to care. I just felt like I had to do something because it didn’t seem like anyone else was.”
Denied citizenship, the Rohingya are not allowed to vote, marry or have children without government permission. In addition, they are not allowed to travel, which makes it difficult to escape to Thailand or Indonesia — two countries that offer asylum to the Rohingya people. According to the report, the Rohingya are being forced into camps and killed by the government and military.
This oppression and suffering is nothing new. The UN Refugee Agency states the Rohingya Muslims have been facing human rights abuses since the military forcibly took power in 1962. However, in recent years the violence escalated and the persecution of the Rohingya people began to be declared a genocide by many. In 2005 The UN placed Burma on its Genocide Watch list.

“The plight of the Rohingya Muslims has definitely not received enough attention by the media and society, if any at all,” senior Fariha Rashid said.

Two years ago, religious tensions in Burma reached a breaking point, English Language Learning teacher Lillia Ben-Ayed said, and Buddhist extremists began killing Rohingya Muslims.
“One of the reasons was religious differences. So many Rohingya Muslims were killed because they were the minority [in Burma],” Ben-Ayed said. “There were massive killings. I saw the pictures online and it was horrible, absolutely horrible.”
Some feel the genocide is still not being given enough global attention. As she began researching on Rohingya, Rashid was shocked to find how little news coverage there was of this situation. In addition, as she talked to people, Rashid said, most people had no knowledge of the violence against the Burmese ethnic minorities.
“There are hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who have fled to Bangladesh but Bangladesh is overpopulated and was turning them away by sealing off their borders. Bangladesh sees Rohingya as a burden. The [Burmese] government does not support the Rohingya at all and has helped in killing them,” Rashid said. “The plight of the Rohingya Muslims has definitely not received enough attention by the media and society, if any at all. This is a situation which is so unfair and has been handled wrongly for so long that it is a shame that it has not received more global attention.”
A few weeks ago, US President Barack Obama visited Burma and called for equal rights for all. Some people want more from the United States and the government. They want President Obama to support the people of Rohingya and condemn the Burmese government. However, this issue, Ben-Ayed said, stretches far beyond the American government and the Obama administration.
“It’s not just America’s responsibility to help Rohingya, but other countries in a position of power should try to help. Every person, every individual, can do something,” Ben-Ayed said. “I just feel like the whole world was watching and no one cared.”
Although, many find it difficult to aid people living so far away. Despite this, both Ben-Ayed and Rashid agree there are still ways to help the Rohingya. Donating money, contacting elected representatives and spreading awareness through social media, Rashid said, are always to help Burma’s ethnic minorities.
“I cannot stress enough how important spreading awareness is. Simply tweeting or reblogging posts about what’s going on and urging others to do so will give this situation the attention it deserves,” Rashid said. “We’ve seen how powerful social media can be with #BringBackOurGirls and Ferguson, and we can do the same thing for the Rohingya. “
As of today, there are still many international politicians who have not spoken out against the violence towards the Rohingya people. Recently, Aung San Suu Kyi, a well known Burmese activist for democracy, received criticism for her silence on the issue of “ethnic cleansing” in Burma. Some, like Rashid, see her silence as allowing the violence to continue and wish for Kyi to openly condemn the treatment of the Rohingya people.
“They [Rohingya people] may not have a voice in their country, but we do,” Rashid said. “And we should use it.”
By Humera Lodhi