Category Archives: Fiona Higgins

Final Exams Cause Stress for Students

by Fiona Higgins  – Opinion Editor

Take a deep breath. You smell that? That’s finals season.

Final exams are always set at an unfortunate time. One the one hand, we get a long break in between our lessons before our finals in the form of Winter Break, letting us have a lot of rest and relaxation beforehand. However, that’s a whole two weeks with very little homework and absolutely no lessons before we’re immediately thrown into finals preparation, catching us all off guard.

So after studying our little unprepared brains into shape for the tests, they arrive. Or do they? There’s always a couple days right at the end of the semester that are reserved for finals; both of those days have two hour long periods that are meant for our last tests of the semester. That thought can be a ton of anxiety already; two or three tests all in one day? It sounds too draining. But a lot of teachers choose to spread their finals out around different days in the week or two before the end of the semester. That’s all well and good, but in a way, we might feel better if it was all in one or two days -at least that way, we could just get it over with.

At this point, we all know what will happen; we’ll walk in on the scheduled day for finals, steeling ourselves for any tests we may have, but are instead greeted with two hour doses of teachers attempting to get a jump on the next semester by doing two hour lessons. We get lulled into a false sense of security, only for one teacher to remind us that yes, indeed, we do have our final on the finals day. Frustrating, to say the least.

When I walked into high school as a freshman, I already knew that finals were going to be terrible. That’s what everyone tells you, that’s what the media tells you, and it’s the truth; they’re awful. The one thing you never hear is that their scheduled terribly.

We all have our own respective issues with finals, no matter what age, grade or gender. What can I say that all of us don’t already grumble under our breath while we’re studying for these things?

Students Mourn H: Drive Loss

by Fiona Higgins – Opinion Editor

Student information and document storage may come and go, but one will always stand above the rest; the H: Drive. Unfortunately, it has been unceremoniously yanked from under Kentlake student’s feet.

At the beginning of the year, student’s laptops began opening a popup every few hours, urging us to make an account on OneDrive if we have not already. Many of us were confused. Why would we want to do that when we have a perfectly good H: Drive? Documents there stay forever, and you can access your H: Drive from any computer you want. It was easy to get to. However, it quickly became clear why we were being pushed to open a OneDrive account; our H: Drives have been deactivated.

For any dismayed students who have somehow missed this bit of information, rest assured, anything you left there last year is still there. You can still open the documents saved there. But, the moment you try to save anything to it now, you will receive a notification: “You don’t have permission to save in this location. Contact the administrator to obtain permission. Would you like to save in the Documents folder instead?”

Most of us would reply “No, why would we?” The H: Drive is secure, but Documents are definitely not. Saving in documents is taking a risk that a computer problem could wipe out all of the work you have there, as well as documents being wiped every single year when you turn in laptops. Unfortunately, we don’t have a choice in the matter anymore. Right now, you have three options: The desktop, your Documents, or OneDrive.

After two months of living without our H: Drives, those of us who went through all of high school with them are more than a little peeved. The H: Drive was convenient, but OneDrive requires lots of navigations and opening new tabs. It feels like more of a lengthy process.

At the same time, teachers seem to be trying to phase out the S: Drive, where they have previously saved all of their notes, and where we used to turn things in. A few teachers are hanging on, and students with those teachers typically really appreciate it. But for many, they are making an about-face towards Canvas, another site that many students really dislike. In the hands of a teacher who really knows their way around it, it is at least tolerable, even with its confusing navigation, but anyone who is not sure of what they are doing can easily leave a class confused or frustrated because they are not able to turn in assignments on time, whether it be an unpublished assignment or an unpublished whole module.

We tried OneDrive. It works, but we all use it begrudgingly. Ask almost anyone, and they will tell you that they want the H: Drive back. It is more readily available, and much less risky -and less annoying- than many of our other options.

PSAT Memes Still Popular

by Fiona Higgins – Opinion Editor

If you are a sophomore or older, you definitely understand these memes. What was once a serious test, designed to prepare students for the SAT, has become an anticipated time of year in which an explosion of obscure memes come to light. Last year, it was artisan bread and Juan Ribero. Two years prior, it was Herminia’s poetry and wolf puppies. This year, it is shrimp ex-husbands and tomatoes. None of these things make any sense at all to anyone who wasn’t taking the PSAT.

It might seem strange, with PSAT memes being so popular, that SAT memes haven’t risen to the same level, but there is a pretty simple explanation. On both tests, you have to sign nondisclosure agreements to assure that you will not discuss the test material. With the PSAT, it’s a practice test, and no one feels like it’s an urgent member. With the SAT, though, there is a lot on the line. Ergo, seniors and freshmen will collectively get to be confused by the onslaught of seagrass and classic health booth smoothies.

The Dark Half by Stephen King Frightens Readers With Twisted Plot

by Fiona Higgins – Opinion Editor

It is nearly impossible to breach the topic of horror films and books without discussing Stephen King. He is a legend among authors, and the film adaptions of his books -famous ones include “Carrie”, “The Shining”, and “It”- have been called by many to be one of the scariest films of all time. It is only natural that even his lesser known stories should be terrifying too. “The Dark Half” is a perfect example. Though it has a film adaption, it is not nearly as talked about, which is unfortunate. An amazingly dark horror story such as this should not have to fly under the radar.

Set in Ludlow, Maine in the 1980s, an author, Thad Beaumont, publicly and symbolically kills off and buries his pen name’s persona, George Stark. Unbeknownst to him, though, anyone connected to the articles revealing George Stark’s retirement is being brutally murdered, and Thad has been fingered as the culprit. As the story continues, he realizes that all of these murders seem familiar. All of the victims have been murdered in the same way that his alter ego’s main character had done. In addition, a childhood nightmare is coming back to life; the sound of sparrows. Thad had a brain tumor as a child, and the sign that a seizure or fit was coming in was always the sound of sparrows. Now plagued by the possibility of his youth returning to get him at the same time as the possibility that someone acting as George Stark is murdering those that revealed him, Thad and his wife Liz can only wait and see what happens.

Though this story has a few of the classic Stephen King tropes, namely the fact that the story takes place in Maine and involves a strange supernatural element with some form of psychic, it holds well on its own without feeling like one of his other various stories. As well as this, it has an interesting tie-in into King’s life; King has written under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, who often wrote darker and more twisted stories than King himself, much in the same way that George Stark wrote more gruesome stories than Thad.

A twisted, disturbing, and fascinating story, The Dark Half is the perfect book to curl up with on Halloween. It will not disappoint.

Budget Cuts Cause Concerns

by Fiona Higgins – Opinion Editor

It has only been about a week since school started, and already the mess that the administration has gotten us in is plain to see. Class sizes have increased, teachers are short on materials, and cut corners are everywhere.

These are only a few signs that have occurred from the Kent School District’s budget freeze and budget cut.

In the Kent School District 2016-2017 fiscal year, which ended on the first day of school, the district accrued a 6.9 billion dollar shortfall. According to the Seattle Times, KSD’s new budget “is roughly $452 million and includes a reduction in staff positions and operating costs totaling about $4 million.” In addition, there are currently 55 job openings in the district. Due to a hiring freeze, they will not be filled. Individual schools are reallocating their funds, and many of them are directing them away from the arts programs and more towards STEM and sports programs, leaving them with even less of a budget than before. The difference between the district’s Fine Arts fund has dropped from about 82,500 dollars to roughly 32,000 dollars, according to the budget report published on the Kent School District’s website. The effects are immediately clear in several places; Mill Creek Middle School, for example, ahd their budget for their orchestra class cut by 40%.

Though this sudden budget issue is a shock to many parents and students, the administration was not surprised. Christie Padilla, the Kent Education Association President, said “It was our position that if you do not change your spending trajectory, you will end up in the red… They continued their spending trajectory, so here we are, in the red.”

The Kent School District administration got us into this unfortunate mess, and there does not seem to be a lot we can do now to get us out of it. Currently, district leaders have approved two loans; one for $10 million and one for $15 million. Both loans have moved from the capital-project fund to its general fund, which lets the districts use the money however they want. Regrettably, it was not enough, and the fiscal year still ended with a negative fund balance, much to everyone’s dismay.

The question is, what was our administration thinking when this catastrophe ended up happening? Clearly, as Christie Padilla pointed out, this was a predicted outcome of the district’s spending habits. As well as this, now that we are in this mess, what are they going to do about it? The admin in charge of managing the budget has not been fired, and it has become a little hard to watch the whole cabinet sitting in their white castle while we are being squeezed into classes to fit all of us around the lack of teachers. How are students supposed to focus in an environment like this? Class sizes have been gradually increasing over the years, and no one has ever thought it was a good idea. It is hard to tell what the thought process was. But now that we are here, the only thing we can do is to raise our voices as one and make sure this does not happen again.

Charlotte McGuire Discusses Future Plans

by Fiona Higgins – Staff Reporter

Senior Charlotte McGuire, a determined and dedicated student, is graduating this year with the achievement of maintaining perfect attendance for all four years of high school. From visiting Victoria in Freshman and Sophomore year for Kentlake Band to balancing difficult classes, she has certainly shown herself to be ready for the University of Washington, which she will be attending in the coming school year.
To incoming freshmen, McGuire’s advice is: “Try to be as involved as you can. I wasn’t very involved for a couple of years, but once I got more involved with activities, like going to games and all that, I was proud of myself that I did go. It gave me more of an experience because I’m not going to high school again.”
McGuire hopes to become a family psychologist or therapist once she graduates from college, because according to her, “I really like knowing how the mind works, and I want to help people with their problems.”

1984 Proves Relevant Years After Publication

by Fiona Higgins – Staff Reporter

In light of the recent political election, many people on both sides have accused the candidates of being Orwellian. What does that mean? Look no further than 1984, a novel written by George Orwell.
This book is required reading for AP Language students, but unlike many books similar to 1984 that students have to read in school, this one sticks out by how disturbing some of the subject matter can be. A dystopian book written in 1949, the actual story takes place in 1984 like the title implies. Orwell describes a world in which three governments have taken over the entire world and are all subjecting their citizens to similarly totalitarian styles of control. The main character, Winston, lives in Oceania, which encompasses both Americas, the British Isles, Australia and southern Africa. This government encourages people to live by the idea of Doublethink, which in turn allows the government to alter any information they want and the citizens will automatically believe it.
Coming from a post World War II Britain, some of the fears of government takeovers seems warranted, but the controlling policies of The Party, the new government, represent the worst of what could’ve been after the second World War.
More than being a slightly disconcerting required reading novel, though, Orwell’s ideas have given way to new terms that have worked their way into our vocabulary. Phrases like “Big Brother is watching” is a reference to this book, in that “Big Brother” is the supposed leader of The Party. Terms like “Thought Police” and “newspeak” originated from 1984 as well, talking about how The Party uses various manipulating methods to control the population with fear and lack of information.
Like many of the books read in English class, many judged it to be dull before even opening the cover. After all, we have grown up in a time where dystopian novels are starting to become extremely commonplace. However, this one is so twisted that you can’t help but pay attention to it. This is one of the oldest dystopian novels most of us have ever seen.
Whether you have already read it from the first semester of junior or sophomore year, or you have still yet to pick it up, the ideas presented in this book are certainly worth considering, even if the governments suggested are unlikely to happen. It certainly has produced many interesting discussions in class, and most of us will not be likely to forget it quickly.

How to Survive AP Testing Season

by Fiona Higgins – Staff Reporter

For many juniors and seniors, as well as several sophomores, the dreaded time of the year has finally arrived: AP Testing season.
Try as we might to prepare for this nightmare, all our well-meaning arrangements can fly right out of our heads the moment we step into that testing room. Students may forget facts and figures, and more than a handful of students feel like they are on the verge of panic all day.
In light of that issue, here are a few ways to get ready and keep calm in the face of testing.
Study: This seems extremely obvious, but there are many people who feel like they already know the material and will not study as a result. Even if you do know everything you need to know, studying can give you a feeling of security that will help you feel more confident on test day.
Look at the Rubric: Every AP Test is graded on a detailed rubric. Frequently, your teachers will evaluate you on the same rubric. If you can figure out what you have to do to get all the points you need, you will be completely set to take the test.
Breathe: Again, an obvious thing to say, but very relevant. Many people have stopped breathing in the middle of tests and it doesn’t allow for clear thinking.
Care Packages: This can work if you make one for yourself, although your friends would likely appreciate these too. Little care packages can help tide you over through the stressful days before the test and the even more nerve-wracking hours during the test. While things like pens and pencils are a practical gift, other items like face wipes and a stress ball can help with other problems like fidgeting or stress-activated acne.
Most importantly, though, just remember: It is not the end of the world. There will be other chances to prove yourself. The only thing that matters is that you do your best.
Good luck to everyone this testing season.

“Into the Wild” Raises the Bar for Required Reading

into the wild

by Fiona Higgins – Staff Reporter

Many students have heard of Into the Wild, a novel by John Krakauer, but in this school, only those in AP English Language and Composition will likely ever read it. Like many required reading books, it is judged to be bland and uninteresting before the cover is even Krak-auered open. However, this book presents such an interesting dilemma that, even if you dislike the people this nonfiction book focuses on, it will always give an opportunity for discussion about the morality of humans as a whole.
Into the Wild is an account of short stories and interviews that string together the life of Chris McCandless, a 24 year old man who decided to go on a cross country adventure ending in a permanent stay in Alaska that resulted in his early death. Jon Krakauer started the book as an article for a magazine which grew to something much longer. From Arizona to South Dakota, McCandless travelled all over the United States. However, it is not his death and his journey that are such a topic for discussion, no, it is instead Chris’ reasons for doing so.
Due to the fact that Chris was going on this journey to explore the “inner country of his soul”, many people regard him as a skewed genius, a man on a journey more important than material needs and attachments. At the same time, his extreme lack of preparation and alienation of his entire family have led others to view McCandless as an arrogant idiot, someone who went into the bush of Alaska with little gear and a bag of rice and hoped to survive on his own. These two ideas are absolute polar opposites, which certainly gives us a lot to talk about in class discussions, but also gives way to a lot of debate about human motivation. Is leaving on a journey to find yourself worth it if you end up cutting off all close relationships in your life? Is successfully surviving in the wilderness for a time acceptable if you end up dying, or mishandling the wildlife around you? It is hard to say.
For many, the answer is clear in their heads, but nobody seems to be able to come to a universal conclusion. Native Alaskans especially see McCandless as a dime-a-dozen moron who wandered into a situation he did not know how to deal with, but there are an equal amount of people from around the country that see Chris McCandless as an inspiration.
When I first started reading this, my reaction was immediately sour; Chris McCandless, to me, represented every character trait that I disliked in other people, except it was all in one single person. He was foolhardy, arrogant, rude to his family, and even though he didn’t have the slightest idea of how to actually survive in the wild, he assumed he would be able to anyway. In his journey, he survived for as long as he did by pure luck, some of which involved shooting and killing game that he was not able to prepare because of his lack of research. Given all of what I perceived, it shocked me that other people could feel differently. However, many people in my class thought that Chris was impressive, or that he was incredibly enlightened in the journey he had. It proved to me that there was much more to this book than met the eye.
Whether you enjoy the book or not due to what you think of Chris McCandless, it is still definitely worth a read. If more people join the conversation, perhaps a conclusion can finally be reached.

Department of Education Protects Children

by Fiona Higgins – Staff Reporter

Seemingly without anyone noticing it, a Kentucky lawmaker named Thomas Massie proposed a new bill to Congress that said “The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2018.”
It is unlikely that an entire federal department could be completely disbanded, but many things have been changing quite suddenly as of late, so it seems like anything is possible at this point. A decision in favor of the bill would leave all educational decisions entirely to individual states, and that could end up being a disaster.
If the Department of Education was terminated, many things would end for public schools. For example, public school lunches currently have to follow a regulated nutritional plan, so students get proper nutrients. Without the Department of Education, these guidelines would disappear; many kids would not get the nutrition required if their particular state decides to change their nutritional guidelines or make an attempt to save money by using less expensive foods.
Another important part of legislation that would vanish would be many protections for disabled students. Right now, schools do their best to try to help students with disabilities by changing their teaching styles for these kids, or helping them find and execute different types of therapies. Kids are provided with paraeducators to help them focus or get one on one teaching, and certain teachers are specially trained in order to be able to teach classes of disabled students. A large part of being able to help disabled kids is a school’s ability to work with these students individually to find what works for them. Without the Department of Education, and by extension Section 504 of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, these protections would become unsupported by federal government, and once again left to the states. Texas and Delaware, marked as “needs intervention” by the Department of Education’s special education rankings, would likely become even worse without these protections due to the lack of federal oversight.
There are many who believe that eliminating the Department of Education would stop the federal government from having to spend so much on education. The idea is that states would fund education instead. However, letting states fund their own educational programs would create uneven learning across the United States. One state may have higher standards for passing or failing than another, and one state may allow creationism to be taught while another may not. Abolishing the Department of Education, while saving money, would create huge inequalities in this country.
Though a bill as short as Massie’s is unlikely to pass, the fact that many lawmakers have come forward over the years wanting to abolish the Department of Education does present the possibility that it may happen. If this bill happens to pass, we would have a whole host of issues that are going to make a very difficult few years for students and parents alike.