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Examples of
Position Papers


Student Examples

The Uniform - CR
The Uniform? - AD
A Sport to Cheer About - KS
File Sharing - JM


Electronic Locators for All! - JP
Consensus Management - JP
Watch Your Language - JP


Published Examples

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The Uniform

     High school kids tend to groan at the thought of school uniforms: plaid skirts, and ugly yellow button ups, maybe not the best fashion choice. But nonetheless, dont kids at schools where the students dont don uniforms still dress alike? The overwhelming answer is yes. Schools have become a haven for pop culture and the mainstream to douse students with the latest, disposable trends. With the freedom of choice and plenty of variety, now more than ever, there should be individuals, not clones.     

Still, more and more companies like Abercrombie and Fitch, which sells an image rather than clothing, are springing up nationwide and succeeding greatly at what they market: too thin girls and too muscular boys, all scantily clad in preppy staples like rugby shirts and corduroys. Teenagers imparticular often dont have their own sense of style and feel the need to buy someone elses. I am not against Abercrombie and Fitch. I am not against those who wear Abercrombie and Fitch. I am simply against uniformity and any sort of predetermined look. Fashion is good. Trends are bad.   
With plenty of choices, why is it that one style is chosen by so many? Students cringe at the thought of uniforms but they dont seem so farfetched, especially when the unspoken uniform may already be in existence. By unspoken I mean that this uniform is not dictated by the administration and is written nowhere. Instead, television, movies and magazines dictate what should and should not be worn. The students choose to follow this look, and hence, all look the same. It is this blandness that creates a school uniform, whether or not that is its title.    

Teenagers are supposed to be rebellious. They are supposed to defy their elders and the rules laid out for them. My generation obviously didnt get that memo. Old men in stuffy suits sit around thinking up the next big trend. Will it be sparkly t-shirts plastered with the word prep or jock, or should low rise jeans be in this year? Whatever they decide, youll find their choice in every store at your local mall with plenty of teenyboppers buying up the trend, allowance in hand. It doesnt matter what the trend is, it simply matters that there is indeed a trend to follow.    

Perhaps one day, free thought will prevail, kids will stop wearing hemp necklaces, and the world will be a safer place. Until that day, dont forget to watch the Real World and Dawsons Creek so you know what to wear to school tomorrow; you wont be the only one.

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The Uniform?

As a freshman, I won*t say that I wasn*t influenced by a nagging desire to "fit in" be normal. But, as I have become more and more comfortable in my own skin, I have grown into who I am now. A person who lives her life by her own set of morals, styles, talents, and choices. I don*t appreciate having to constantly defend my intelligence just because I like to shop at the Gap. But, too often, I find myself targeted by the very people who protest the stereotypes that they are labeled with by "my kind". Well, what kind am I? Now, it has been said that regardless of the casual dress code at Barlow, there lies a uniform worn by most of its members. This is a severe underestimation of the capacity of our classmates.

I don*t know about you, but when my mom takes me Back-to-School shopping, we usually head for the mall...Gap, Old Navy, sometimes a department store. She doesn*t really like taking me to NYC (my favorite shopping venue) to buy me ninety dollar soho jeans. So, I generally have to save up for the things I really want, and seeing as most of my money gets immediately spent on food, I don*t always get those items. I would gander that many Barlow parents (and students) are this way...leading their child (or being led) to Gap and the other major stores. This means that many of us have the same items of clothing, but it*s the way we put all those pieces together that indicates our personal style.

Those who are in support of the idea that all Barlow students come to school uniform clad everyday must have different ideas about individuality than me. I know that I am an individual. The way I think is entirely different from those sitting to the right and left of me. I am creative, I am original. I like the Gap. Does that have to be such an oxymoron? I don*t wear my political orientation, religious affiliation or sexuality on my sleeve. In order to get to know me, you*ll have to talk to me, not merely speculate about the brand of my shirt. And, I know that I am not alone in my adamance about difference. I know I am not the only thinker in this room...and I know that in our own ways, we all create. To disagree with this last statement would be selling the Barlow population short by a mile. Susy Q. and I might have on the same outfit, but Susy Q. is not Annie Dean, nor am I Susy.

Through years of summer programs, music festivals and sports clinics, I have been exposed to many, many different people. Because of this, I have learned to be open. I have learned that stereotyping someone because of the way they look is not only useless, but also destructive. I now stay away from this type of semantic indexing as diligently as possible. I think that honestly, I give everyone a chance...telling myself that every person I meet has the potential to bring something extraordinary to the table. But I find that I am written off by many who don*t prefer my exact lifestyle. That if Ani Difranco is your favorite singer, I*ll stereotype you, and I certainly won*t be able to think like you. Well how do you know who my favorite singer is? Because you can*t find that on my low-slung, hip-hugger jeans.

Individuality is everywhere. It is teeming from the lips, the cd players, the diaries, and the talents of a huge group of Barlow students. To say that this presence is void in anyone who picks up on trends is ludicrous, and it makes the speaker a hypocrite. The implications in the word "uniform" are vast and include such negative thoughts as "carbon copied" and "mindless". I don*t understand how one could fail to see the creativity constantly blooming in our hallways...or maybe they*re just blind.


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A Sport to Cheer About

    Competition is one of the most exhilarating parts of cheerleading.  According to USA Today, “The world of cheerleading no longer means sideline squads that exist solely to support their team”.  Even with all the time and effort we put into our sport, people still don’t consider us athletes.  Cheerleaders are athletes!  They work just as hard as any other sport’s team, if not harder.  Most sports teams have one season, cheerleading has three.  It starts in July and runs through March.  We clock the “man- hours” just like every other athletic sport’s team.  Like track - we run, like football - we toss, like soccer -we kick, like gymnastics – we tumble, and like track hurdlers - we jump.  At Joel Barlow, varsity letters are awarded to cheerleaders who participate in the required games and practices scheduled during the two seasons.

    Cheerleading begins with rigorous one week try-outs.  Some schools have many squads: from co-ed, to all girls, varsity, and JV.  To make the team, a candidate must possess spirit and enthusiasm, timing, muscular strength and endurance for stunting, dancing and gymnastic ability, jumping height and form, facial expressions, arm motions, and voice inflection.  Preparation for high school and college cheerleading squads begins years before the try-outs.  The background and training of the individual influences his or her ability to be a successful cheerleader on a squad.

    During the summer, most cheerleading squads endure two hour practices under the hot sun in preparation for the summer cheer camp which is run at a centrally located university.  At camp, the season officially starts.  Alarms go off at 5:30 a.m. and attendees know they won’t be back into bed until 11:30 that night.  At the end of the week of camp, all cheerleading squads participate in the first competition of the season where everyone competes against each of the teams at camp from all over New England.  Awards to cheer at the NFL Pro Bowl and other events like the Orange Bowl, Gator Bowl, and Rose Bowl.  

    After kicking-off the cheer season with summer camp, the teams head home with new focuses and missions to accomplish in the months ahead.  Routine practices last two hours and include cheering and basic dance routines which works the aerobic system.  Tumbling passes and gymnastics are practiced daily.  Gymnastics is an integral part of cheerleading and it has been considered a sport for years.  Three days a week, cheerleaders work out in the gym lifting weights and working on different machines.  Girls are hoisted, lifted, and catapulted high over the heads of the base cheerleaders in stunts, so upper body strength is essential.

    Competitions truly exemplify the athletic nature of cheerleaders in a competitive arena where the best of the best move on from local to state to regional to national level events.  This highly competitive situation that results from countless hours of practicing for a routine that lasts less than three minutes.  In literally just seconds, a team has to show their talents and abilities to maximize the score.  A mistake by one person can cost the team many points, and ruin all chances to succeed.  

    As with any sport, there are many risks involved with cheerleading.  According to a report by The Physician and Sportsmedicine, “cheerleaders lose more time from their activity because of injury – 28.8 days per injury – than any other group of athletes at the high school level”.  The National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research says, “Cheerleading leads to more serious injuries in women than traditional sports”.  In fact, cheerleading has more injuries per year than football.  Just last year, the Joel Barlow Varsity Cheerleading Squad had a girl with a black eye, one with a fractured wrist, a fractured ankle, a broken foot, a concussion, and another with a torn ACL of the knee who had to undergo major surgery.  This is not a sport one can take lightly.  It is dangerous. According to ESPN, permanent disabilities and death have been directly associated with the sport in other high schools and colleges in the United States.

    Cheerleading has evolved through the years.  It is no longer the stereotypical pretty, bimbo girls dancing around on the sidelines. As Willis Bugbee said in 1927, “The cheerleader, where once was merely tolerated, is now a person of real estate.  Their prestige is such that at many schools and colleges they must win their place in a competitive examination.” Last year, over half of the varsity squad at Joel Barlow made the Honor and High Honor Roll. And today over 250 major colleges and universities in the United States not only consider cheerleading a sport, but offer scholarships for students who qualify.

    Cheerleading has come a long way in the past fifty years.  National competitions for cheerleading broadcasted on ESPN attract more viewers than National Hockey games (about 445,000 households) – and it is rumored that the sport of cheerleading is soon to be an Olympic event.  Cheerleaders make it look easy.  A great team makes it look like they catch the “flying cheerleaders” as if they were as light as feathers, jump as though their feet are on springs, and present themselves as perpetually spirited.  Cheerleaders ARE athletes and for anyone who doesn’t agree…come and spend one week with a varsity squad, and you will have more fun and finish more sore than you have ever been in your life.


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The Inevitability of File Sharing

File Sharing cannot be stopped.  Members of the music industry, quit fighting a battle that you cannot win.  Making it illegal is impossible.  Too many people know how to get around the anti-file sharing programs and certain file encryptions.  You, the members of the music industry, are threatening to drop viruses on your so-called illegal downloads.  Commercial downloads can be stopped one at a time but its expensive.

Most music fans still buy the CD’s.  They download for fun or to listen to new music and groups.  If they like it most people buy the CD. Typically they will see the music video and enjoy the song then they will download that song and maybe download another song and then buy the CD if they really like it.  Most people would not spend $16.99 for one song. According to Facts on File, the article "Music and the Internet" "most people who use peer-to-peer programs are music fans who buy at least as much music as they trade over the Internet."

One day I was watching MTV and the band Abandoned Pools came on with their first music video, at least to my knowledge.  I really liked this song which was called "The Remedy." I would not buy the CD for the song, but I downloaded two of their songs.  They turned out to be great.  Lyrically and instrumentally awesome.  Now comes the trip to the nearest CD store.  And boom!  In comes money too you.

There are legitimate uses of file sharing "After all'" the same Facts on File article argues, "videocassette recorders have not been banned, even though they can be used to make unauthorized copies of movies."  The music industry is afraid of new technology just as they once feared the introduction of cassette recorders and as the film industry once feared the introduction of video recorders.  New technology can be frightening, but change is inevitable and can be often beneficial.

The music industry needs to stop fighting downloads and accept it as a great way to publicize the music.  Many artists have discovered that this is the best way to expose their music to new fans.  As Janis Ian said, in the U.S.A Today Website

At a time when radio playlists are tighter and any kind of exposure is hard to come by, 365,000 copies of my work now will be heard. Even if only 3% of those people come to concerts or buy my CDs, I've gained about 10,000 new fans this year.  That's how artists become successful: exposure. Without exposure, no one comes to shows, and no one buys CDs.  

People who enjoy music like I do will do the same thing.  Of course, now that most of us have the capability of burning audio CD's, we're going to take advantage of that.  But there is nothing wrong with that.  I burn music CD's and I buy the artists' actual CD's.  For any person that has a favorite band or musician, there will be another CD sold.  We support our favorite musicians by going to their concerts and purchasing their merchandise.

So what exactly are you trying to accomplish?  Trying to get rid of the downloads out there completely is impossible.  It is a waste of your time and money.  It costs millions of dollars to hunt these "criminals" down.  There are so many more important things to worry about.  Why freak out about this?  This incredible use of technology is at our fingertips.  You're going to realize twenty years from now that there is not only nothing wrong with file sharing, but it is also a great and cheap way to publicize music.

Electronic Locators for All!

Magnavox has introduced a remote finder that will electronically locate your TV controller lost under the couch pillows, behind TV consoles or in the pocket of your youngest child.  A click and a beep-beep, and you’ve found it.  It’s amazing to me that this wasn’t invented long ago.   I mean this isn’t the eighties after all, we are approaching the millenium.  I know in our household, losing the universal remote causes great anxiety.  I shutter to think of what would happen if we didn’t have individual backup remotes for the TV, the cable and the VCR.  My children listen with open mouths when I tell them about the old days when we actually had to stand up and go over to the TV set every time we wanted to change the channel.   

The problem with electronic locators is only the lack of application in the rest of our lives.  It stinks of conspiracy.  How many times could I have used a children’s sneaker finder when I was in a hurry to get the kids in the car?  A tiny electronic gizmo embedded in the heel of each shoe would make it a snap.  How much time could I save by electronically locating the dog’s leash every night?  Sew a tiny beeper into the seam.  How much aggravation would I save if I could electronically locate my car keys every morning?  Key chains simply must have built-in locators.  It ought to be a law!  Moldable apply-it-yourself transmitters should be sold at all supermarket check-outs.

But why stop with inanimate objects?  I can’t always find my children now, and they are only six and eight.  Imagine when they are teenagers!  Couldn’t the children themselves be wired in a simple painless operation?  I’m sure the technology already exists for at-home installation kits.  Cats.  Dogs.  Elderly in-laws.  The possibilities are endless.  Isn’t this a natural extension of beepers and cellular phones?  Of course it is.

 And what about lost ideas?  Derailed trains of thought?  Lost morals and values?  You may laugh, but remember someone once laughed at the idea of TV remote control locators too!  Do you want to look back and be one of those people?  Of course not.  Computers can already spellcheck, read text and translate speech; finding lost ideas is the natural next step.  

In the future you won’t have to find or remember anything.  Push a button and beep-beep.  There it is.  Lost your point?   Can’t find the word you need?  Can’t remember that clever conclusion?  Don’t worry.  With a click and a beep-beep,  an electronic locator will find it.  It’s idea whose time has come.  

The problem of too many locators could easily be solved by a singel universal locator.  Just type in the lost object and press enter.  Zak’s rain coat?  Beep-beep.  There it is.  The recipe for broccoli salad?  Beep-beep  And it’s right where you need it.  What if you lose the universal locator you ask?  I’m way ahead of you.  Brain implants.  A minor operation and you’ll never lose it.  Just put it next to you memory and you’ll know where to look.

Electronic locators: the time is now.  What are we waiting for?  The next millenium?


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Consensus Management: Act I

Form a committee; call a meeting;
Take a survey; call the roll;
Ask the public for their input;
Share the power and control.

Here's the problem.  What do you think?
Give suggestions; we're all ears.
It's all open – democratic.
Watch the process spin its gears.

We'll sort through all opinions
Find the stance that's right for all.
We're all colleagues; no one's selfish
Everyone can share the ball.

In the end we'll be happy,
Feeling good that we've met,
All in unanimous agreement
With the policies we've set.

Or maybe just too tired to argue,
Or too disappointed to object,
Or too furious after all the talking
That our objectives were not met.

This committee/survey/ask-all-opinions
Pretense of sharing all the load
Is looking more and more like theater,
An act that's starting to get old.


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Watch Your Language

Over the last few years the halls of Barlow have become increasingly filled with shouting and swearing.  When students come out of class they often swear loudly.  Many upper classmen salute each other in the halls with loud profane greetings.  Sometimes the swearing seems to express frustration or announce, “Class is over; I’m on my own time.”  Other times it’s verbal bullying by the same people who cut in line or shove and harass people in the hall, all in good fun.  It’s almost a declaration of ownership.  “The classes belong to the teachers and the halls belong to me!”  

It’s true that the halls are different than the classrooms, but they are also different than locker rooms, bars and student’s cars.  Hallways are public places that demand consideration of other members of the public that use them.  As a public place in a public school the hallways must also reflect the purpose and climate of a school.  Loud swearing and horseplay that might be fine in a home, a car, or a bar is out of place in a hallway.

“They are only words,” transgressors argue.  “Only words.”  There is no “only” with “words”.  Words represent ideas, images, feelings and attitudes.  Words not only express thoughts they often develop thought.  One of the primary goals of schools in general and of Joel Barlow High School in particular is to develop thoughtfulness and articulateness, the skills and habits of mind and action that help us learn to know ourselves and our worlds, that help us learn to shape both.  Words are important.

Swearing is seen by some as a rite of passage or a right of adolescence.  It’s just an innocent way of asserting independence or announcing adulthood like smoking cigarettes.  Swearing is associated with coolness somehow and the louder the swearing the cooler the swearer.   Anyone who objects is being uncool.  There is something fun about being a little out of control.  I have known the joys of swearing.  (this is my subtle disclaimer that I am really a cool dude.)  And using language recklessly is preferable to using cars or alcohol recklessly but these are all out of school activities.  Schools are different.

Often the problem in the halls is just a matter of volume.  A statement made to a friend in a library voice is a private comment.  What is objectionable in a yell is no one else’s business in a whisper.  Other times it’s a matter of content.  “Sucks” seems to have become an acceptable if non-preferred term to express dissatisfaction but for many adults it retains a sexual connotation.  Other words beginning with “S” and “F” are not acceptable at all.  Terms charged with sexual connotations or bodily functions are out of place in a public place.  They are considered to be private.

The right to swear loudly is not covered as freedom of speech.  It conflicts with other citizens freedom of hearing and is an example of one person or group imposing themselves on another.  This type of imposition is not a problem limited to Joel Barlow High School.  Like blaring radios, public drunkenness and even drunk driving, it is an example of the problem many Americans have with distinguishing between private and public behavior.

The solution to this problem is not a new rule with new punishments and a new swearing page in the JBHS handbook.  The solution lies in teachers and students, parents and administrators speaking up in the halls to remind the transgressors that they are there and part of the hallway public.  And the other part of the solution lies in all us looking around and being aware of our audience, intended or otherwise, and watching our language.


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