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Stop Trashing Our School

Gleb Mikhalev Apr 28, 2007

By Gleb Mikhalev & Kyle Giller
The atmosphere at Beacon High School has been anxious and angry since the Post ran a screaming front-page story about some kids from our school traveling to Cuba for spring break. After reading that article and the coverage that followed, many students have lost faith in much of the media that they are exposed to every day.

For the kids who made the journey, the idea was to experience Cuban culture, since it had been denied to them (and many others) by the American government. When they went, they traveled as an independent group that wasn’t sponsored in any way by the school.

Upon returning, they shared stories of a country far different from what people in the United States have been told over the past five decades. They described many of the Cubans they had meet as some of the smartest, most admirable people they had ever met and felt the trip to be an enlightening experience.

The trip was led by Nathan Turner, a charismatic teacher who loves to challenge his students to think about why the world is the way it is and how we might be able to change it. Last year, he led a school-sponsored trip to Venezuela for spring break. He has also chaperoned three trips to New Orleans including one last summer that lasted for four weeks and saw kids helping with rebuilding some of that city’s most damaged neighborhoods.

Mr. Turner teaches our community service class twice a week, Mondays and Wednesdays. In the past month we have learned about our current world in a completely new style as we watched and then discussed Why We Fight, a documentary film by Eugene Jarecki about the U.S.’s obsession with war and the power of the Military-Industrial-Complex in our government. We are currently learning about the sexualization of young men and women in today’s society.

The caricature of Mr. Turner and our school that appeared in the Post bears no resemblance to our own experience as students.

After the article was published, the street outside the school was flooded with reporters and cameramen from various media outlets. Some reporters came in marked vans while others were more discreet. Undercover reporters would stand on the street, pretending to walk by, and ask kids if they knew anything about the trip. Many kids, defending their school, did not respond.

Other students were angry with the reporters coming to our school because they felt they were being wrongly portrayed by the media. Although Mr. Turner remained calm throughout the ordeal (even when paparazzi from the Post camped outside his home all weekend just to get an unflattering photograph), students could not help but take matters personally. Hopefully, our fellow New Yorkers will see this article and understand the student perspective, rather than that of a reporter spying from the street.

Gleb Mikhalev and Kyle Giller are sophomores at Beacon High School. They are interning this semester with The Indypendent as a part of a Community Service class they are taking with Nathan Turner.