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Our Lack of Balance

During my sophomore year, the economy was bad, and school seemed to remind me of that obvious fact every day. The school district had streamlined its budget, rationing printer paper and art supplies, taking away funding from freshman athletic teams, school clubs, and school publications. Times must have changed by the end of the school year, as the new budget that was passed boasted of restoration of the most significant cuts made the past year. The freshman athletic teams were revamped. New uniforms were bought for the freshman, junior varsity, and varsity boys’ and girls’ soccer teams in an act of celebratory extravagance. Various improvements to the baseball field and our school’s most prized possession—the turf field—were announced with fanfare. New bleachers were installed to allow even more spectators to pack together and gawk at the glory of our show of affluence and our football team.
The only change that tangibly benefited me from those budget revisions was the restoration of funding for out-of-region competitions. Now I wouldn’t have to pay the $20 entry fee and the $100 dollar hotel bill for my beloved New York State History Day competition, like I did last year. I was grateful enough for this change, but when I started my junior year in September, I noticed some troubling developments. As the school year progressed, I didn’t see any copies of the Ram’s Horn, the school weekly newspaper which had dissolved due to the past year’s budget cuts. The math, social studies, and science magazines were still nonexistent as well.
Eventually I found out that my school had failed to restore any funding for its in-school publications: the Ram’s Horn, Foreign Exchange (the world languages magazine), Chaos (the science magazine), Clio (the social studies magazine) and QED (the math magazine). I felt betrayed. The publications were award-winning efforts of student collaboration, just like our sports teams: Chaos and QED had been honored multiple times, including Chaos, which received the prestigious Columbia University Press Gold Circle Award when I was a freshman.
Undoubtedly, this is a problem of misplaced priorities by the school administration, ignoring a proper balance between athletics and the worthy academic extracurriculars that fuel academically motivated and talented students. In a broader sense, though, I also see this disparity as a reflection of a larger issue in American society today. Most Americans display a lack of balance between academics and entertainment rooted in popular culture. Almost anyone on the street can identify Kanye West or Eli Manning, but only a few know of the existence of philosophers such as Voltaire and George Orwell, both of whom have had significant impacts on the intellectual culture of our time. Most teens probably devote their time to surfing the Internet, watching television, or playing video games instead of appreciating literature and the fine arts. Yet another apt example of this imbalance: this past weekend, the semifinalists of the Intel Science Talent Search were announced, but the media largely ignored this event. All of my peers, with the exception of those who had entered the competition, were completely unaware of it as well. The current events of their primary interest were the upcoming Super Bowl and the Grammys.
All these are telling examples of a larger problem that currently afflicts society: people glorify and celebrate events in popular culture but neglect the true heroes of our time: the intellectual and academic pioneers. As representatives of society, we must make a conscious effort to emphasize the necessity of re-centering our values. If our values don’t have substance, then it’s impossible to leave a legacy that matters.




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