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A Brief Account of Gendered Experiences in Franklin Sports

An image from a 2021 softball game. Softball is a popular female led sport at Franklin High School. Photo by Maia Kleinberg.

Sports have been a quintessential part of high school since as early as the 1700s. However, since the day girls sports were introduced in schools, young female athletes have faced adversity. As a Franklin student, I find myself frequently hearing about the latest incident in Franklin sports that has made someone feel lesser. While there is no longer the same level of discrimination that there once was in women’s sports, it would be foolish to ignore the everyday instances that show our female athletes they don’t hold the same level of importance, or that being women outweighs being anything else. For example, Violette Creel (12), a soccer player at Franklin High School mentioned feeling that women’s sports weren’t given the same recognition as men’s, and additionally shared her experience with harassment at games.  In reference to her experience at her own soccer games, Creel says that, “[she] would get catcalled, before and after practice. Sometimes even by people watching the games.”  

Many of us hoped that the end of school dress codes in Portland Public Schools (PPS) signaled the end of shaming young women for their clothing, however dress codes are still alive and well in the girls sports community. Selma Biberic, who participates in swim, golf, and volleyball at Franklin, says, “For the swim team, [Oregon School Activities Association] has a dress code for us, but it’s mainly targeted at girls… Basically, you can’t have your butt, any side boob, or cleavage showing, and if any of that is even slightly out of your swimsuit you can be disqualified. But for men they’re allowed to be basically almost naked.” Yes, students must dress appropriately for sponsored activities, however, when there are rules for girls that have no equivalent restriction for boys, it is clear that it is about more than keeping a clean cut image. Dress codes like this, despite sometimes being unintentional, make girls feel ashamed about things they cannot control. “A lot of girls are upset, especially those who are naturally curvier. It’s really stressful when you’re being told that girls who are born a certain way have to worry about being completely covered, when you’re swimming and you can’t constantly be adjusting your swimsuit,” said Biberic. On the whole, uniforms for mens sports have noticeably more coverage than the uniforms for womens sports. 

If you are a Franklin student reading this, I prompt you to think of the last time you remember a women’s sports match being advertised to you, either via social media, the intercom, or by word of mouth. Perhaps it is because I am not very involved in sports, but I can’t recall the last time. Talk amongst the student body surrounding football, for example, is not lacking by any means, and I even feel like I hear more about men’s soccer than I have ever heard about any female-heavy sport. Students becoming more involved in women’s sports, and showing up to support more than just the football team, can be a way to ensure that female athletes are getting equal recognition.

I am in no way saying that our women’s sports program is bad by any stretch of the imagination. However, through dress codes, and an obvious gap in attention, it is evident that unfortunately that sexism in sports is still a very relevant issue. While a situation may be better than it has been in history, there is often room to take action and make things even better for the female athletes of tomorrow. 

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Do You Even Know What Gaslighting Is?

Content Warning: This article contains discussion about manipulation and abuse/abusive relationships.

According to the website Well+Good, “In 2018, Oxford Dictionaries named gaslighting one of its most popular words of the year, and since then, the word has seen a steady increase as a search term on Google.” This steady increase in the use of ‘gaslighting’ has become an integral part of the teenage dictionary.

When talking to Franklin High School students, multiple brought up the idea that they don’t feel as though teenagers know the actual meaning of this harmful term. According to the Oxford Dictionary, to gaslight is to “manipulate (a person) by psychological means into questioning his or her own sanity.”

The colloquialism of gaslighting originates from the 1930s play (later film adapted) “Gaslight,” in which the main character’s husband slowly convinces her that she is going insane. The name comes from the husband convincing the wife that she’s wrong about the gas lights dimming in her attic, even though he is the one dimming them. Since this play was produced, the term has remained, along with its meaning, yet it is used as much more of a commonplace term now than ever before. 

Most commonly, ‘gaslighting’ has been used to explain the complex dynamics and circumstances often found in abusive relationships. The term is often used in these contexts due to the common manipulation that takes place in these cycles of abuse. Gaslighting specifically refers to the questioning of one’s sanity due to the convincing nature of another person; this takes place in these relationship dynamics often in order to keep the victim of abuse in their relationship.

Some high school students hear accusations of peers gaslighting each other almost daily, but it begs the question, how often is gaslighting actually taking place among teenagers? The most common misuse of the term is when describing differences of opinion when it comes to the retelling of a story, or the discussion of what happened from one’s perspective. When the stories don’t align with one another, ‘gaslighting’ becomes an easy fallback to dissolve the conversation and move on. Gaslighting is an easy thing to accuse someone of; because it’s still considered a big deal, people don’t like to try and convince someone that it’s not gaslighting out of fear that they would yet again be accused of it.

However, this is where the trouble lies. When we compare disagreements on the basis of differing perspectives to a psychological manipulation technique that makes one question their own sanity, these said disagreements escalate into something they might not have ever been.

FHS sophomore Jesse Miller says, “I feel like people mix up manipulation and gaslighting.” According to the Oxford Dictionary, manipulation is “behavior that controls or influences somebody/something, often in a dishonest way so that they do not realize it.” The key difference between gaslighting and manipulation is that gaslighting is a specific form of manipulation.

The harm in misusing ‘gaslighting’ and forcing the term to become a more general concept instead of its specific nature is that when properly used, the significance and meaning are less impactful. For example, when both a disagreement in an argument and an attempt to convince someone that what they experienced wasn’t abuse are considered gaslighting, the meaning of the word is misconstrued and the power of gaslighting accusations are weakened. Teenagers using gaslighting as a joke or something to make fun diminishes the weight that the word and concept hold.

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Where Beauty Filters and Beauty Standards Collide

Artwork of a phone held up containing an outline of the European continent, representing the eurocentric beauty standards perpetuated through digital filters. Artwork by Alyson Sutherland.

“Small nose, defined jawline, high cheekbones, long slender neck… basically just picture a thin, white, blonde model with blue eyes, every [standard] that applies to her also applies to the rest of us,” describes senior Eleanor Parks-Orr about the standard of desirability that she feels beauty filters perpetuate through social media. 

Beauty filters, also known as Augmented Reality (AR) lenses, are computer generated effects created to be superimposed upon images and videos in real time. Their effects range from smoothing your skin on a Zoom meeting to giving you heart eyes in a TikTok. They are fun for many, kind of cringey for others, and potentially detrimental to how all of us perceive one another and ourselves, on the Internet and in the real world. 

AR lenses became widely available in 2015 when Snapchat launched its first face modifying filters. “When Lenses first became available, users were predominantly using them comedically and for entertainment purposes…However, the current trend for face filters is no longer fun and quirky transformations, but instead what is referred to as ‘beauty filters,’” according to an article by the software development agency Quantilus Innovation entitled “What’s Behind Augmented Reality Face Filters?”.

Despite this claim that filters were originally utilized primarily for comedic purposes and later morphed into something more glamorous and twisted, the reality is that filters have been controversial as early as 2016 for targeting women and exclusively highlighting eurocentric beauty traits. Seemingly innocent filters like Snapchat’s flower crown have been repeatedly accused of lightening skin, narrowing noses, lightening eyes, and slimming faces. By erasing BIPOC features and whitening skin, so-called “beauty filters” perpetuate the racist narrative of whiteness as the highest standard of beauty, and reinforce colorism that is already incredibly prevalent within the beauty industry. 

While filter designers themselves are not creating beauty standards, they are perpetuating pre-existing notions of what makes a person beautiful, and imposing that ideal onto anyone who happens to try their filter. By revealing to us a version of ourselves that is deemed more acceptable and worthy of praise, beauty filters plant the seeds of insecurities and then commodify them. 

In an article for the medical journal JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, Neelam Vashi writes that “the pervasiveness of these filtered images can take a toll on one’s self-esteem, make one feel inadequate for not looking a certain way in the real world, and may even act as a trigger and lead to BDD.” BDD, or Body Dysmorphic Disorder, is a mental health condition that affects up to 2.4 percent of the population and according to the Mayo Clinic can “cause you significant distress and impact your ability to function in your daily life.” The term “Snapchat Dysmorphia” was coined in 2015 by Dr. Tijion Esho after realizing that an increasing number of plastic surgery patients were bringing in heavily edited photos of themselves with the hope of having their faces altered to appear as though they were wearing a filter.

In a recent interview with InStyle Magazine, Dr. Josie Howard, a psychiatrist who specializes in psychodermatology, points out that even without specifically seeking out face altering lenses, they may still have an impact on one’s body image and self worth. “While the impacts may first be seen amongst the users of social media, they quickly bleed into and permeate the general beauty standards and aesthetic expectations of all of us,” she says. “So, even if someone is not spending hours on social media, they are still exposed to images and products that are driven by the phenomenon of filter enhanced expectations.” 

The issues posed by the growing use of AR lenses are a symptom of outdated beauty standards rather than a cause, therefore, getting rid of filters altogether may be an unproductive solution. Perhaps instead, next time you wear a beauty filter, consider whose beauty you are striving to achieve and who is benefiting from the standards it promotes.

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The SAT and the Future of Equity in College Admissions

An illustration representing how standardized tests have long been an essential step to getting a college degree. While the SAT and ACT have historically been a key part of college admissions, the future of these tests remains unclear. Illustration by Miranda Phinney.

For students who applied to colleges this past fall, almost 80 percent of bachelor’s degree granting universities did not require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores, according to data by the National Center for Fair and Open Testing. These schools adopted either test-optional (considering standardized test scores as a part of admissions when submitted, but not requiring them), or test-blind (not considering standardized test scores, even when available) admissions. Most of these schools stopped requiring standardized test scores during the 2020-2021 admissions cycle as a response to pandemic-induced test center closures. The future of standardized tests as a part of college admissions is still uncertain. Critics of standardized testing requirements voice concerns over testing disparities along racial and class lines, as well as the SAT’s eugenicist origins.

Some schools are choosing to keep or extend their test-optional/blind policies, including both the University of Oregon and Oregon State University. Notably, all of the University of California campuses will be continuing to use test-blind admissions for the foreseeable future. At the same time, a few schools are reverting back to standardized test score requirements, including MIT and Georgia Institute of Technology. The SAT itself is also changing, shifting to a shorter, digital test coming in 2024.

Increasing access and diversity in higher education is a goal that many support. During this time where colleges seem primed to experiment with their approach to both standardized testing and admissions as a whole, creative discussion surrounding the most effective way to update admissions practices is more important than ever.

Through years of research, it’s been established that test-optional admissions do succeed—though on their own they still leave something to be desired. Removing standardized testing requirements generally results in a larger and more diverse pool of applicants, who aren’t any less qualified on measures like grades and course rigor. A 2019 study found that test-optional policies at private institutions increased the enrollment of Black, Latine, and Native American students (and to a lesser extent, low income students). At the same time, those watching the admissions statistics at elite institutions will notice that these gains in diversity during test-optional policies seem small. In Harvard’s first year of test-optional admissions, their largest increase in an historically underrepresented demographic was seen among Black students, who made up 18 percent of the admitted class, as opposed to 14.8 percent the year prior. In the second year of test-optional admissions, the percentage dropped down to 15.5 percent. While Harvard is obviously not representative of the average American college, this pattern does beg the question: why don’t test-optional policies increase diversity as much as proponents want them to?

Part of this can be explained by allowing students to choose whether they submit test scores. Applicants who take the tests are left to decide for themselves whether their scores are high enough to benefit their application. Franklin senior Viridian Klei says that for each school she applied to, she “had to guess whether [her] test scores were good enough to be worth submitting.” When this decision is left to students, those who take the tests and do well are likely to submit them. These same students are disproportionately white and wealthy. Data from the Common Application from the most recent admissions cycle showed that while 53 percent of students in the wealthiest households submitted standardized test scores, a substantially lower 39 percent of students in the poorest households did. Even though colleges with test-optional policies espouse the idea that applicants won’t be penalized for an absence of standardized test scores, the fact of the matter remains that the same students who benefit from standardized testing will continue to be advantaged as long as these test scores are considered as a part of admissions decisions. Test-blind admission policies solve this problem, but they remain less popular than their test-optional counterparts.

Additionally, every other factor used in college admissions today advantages those with more opportunities (ie. the white and wealthy). Families who can afford to hire a private college admissions counselor get expert help editing applicants’ essays and activities lists. Students who don’t have to work jobs or do care work in the home to support their families are free to pursue time-intensive unpaid extracurriculars, and that’s not even touching on nepotism. Access to advanced programs (AP, IB, dual enrollment, etc) isn’t distributed equally either. Students in rural or low income areas might not have advanced classes offered at their local schools, and, depending on the school, disabled students who are a part of special education programs might also face barriers when enrolling in advanced classes. When college admissions prioritize those who are succeeding on traditional metrics, students who face more systemic barriers are inevitably excluded. Here, the myth of the American meritocracy shines at its brightest. White supremacy, classism, and ableism are baked into every structure of our society, and college admissions are no different. 

Even when schools move away from standardized tests, the factors that they rely on have their own flaws. One applicant coming off as a person of better character (whatever that means to admissions committees) than another is a nebulous thing incredibly vulnerable to personal bias.

There are steps colleges can take to increase equity in their admissions process. Test-blind admissions fully remove the problems that the SAT and ACT bring to the decision process. Rumination over whether correlations between SAT scores and race, class, and parental education level are due to inequities in education as a whole or flaws in the design of the test itself often neglects to consider that the nuanced reality is likely a combination of the two. Another way for 4-year colleges to promote diversity (both of race and socio-economic status) on campus is focusing more resources on community college transfer students. Community college offers students a low-cost way to pursue higher education, and for students who struggled in high school for one reason or another, it offers a chance to start over with a clean slate and a new transcript. Prioritizing recruitment and retention of community college transfers is something some schools are already doing via transfer admission guarantees with local community colleges. Abolishing legacy status in admissions is an obvious move, seeing as legacy preference explicitly privileges applicants with a family history at an (often elite) institution, only codifying the advantages that these applicants typically already have. I would be remiss to discuss access to higher education without addressing the factor looming in the minds of students and parents alike: cost. A college degree is more expensive than ever, and entry-level wages simply have not kept pace. Loans are not a solution either, as they end up locking young people into debt for the rest of their lives. Student loan forgiveness, an increased minimum wage, and lowering the cost of tuition at public universities, are all essential to increasing diversity in higher education, in addition to being moral and social necessities in and of themselves.

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Humor to Harm: The Impact Dark Humor Has Placed on Our Society and Ourselves

Male presenting character based on the “Wojak” meme style commenting on a form on anonymous board site 4chan. 4chan, and other sites like it, are hubs for dark humor. Illustration by Gabrielle Campbell

Dark humor has been in the world of comedy for a long time on our screens from stand up comedy to adult cartoons like South Park. But this form of comedy didn’t flourish within younger generations until 2016, where social media apps such as Ifunny (remember this one?), Youtube, and Instagram were major hubs for uncensored comedy. At first, the content was somewhat harmless, with the punchlines surrounding chaos and absurdity, but when consumers of this content dug deeper and the harmless chaos became repetitive, dark humor content creators turned to communal shock as the punchline to their memes. This has led to younger people having beliefs based off of homophobia, racism, sexism, and more based on the comedy they have consumed ever since they first laid their eyes on the world of free range social media use. This epidemic of harmful humor has grounded itself in the real world, especially in middle and high schools, with one recent example being the drawing found on a desk in Franklin High School English teacher Desmond Spann’s classroom.

On February 15, 2022, one day before the second Franklin Talks session of the year, Spann posted a video onto Vimeo titled “The Impact,” where he talks about a drawing found on a desk in his classroom, which was revealed being a character from the game “Among Us” with the phrase “Sussy [N slur]” written next to it. Not only does he reveal the content of the drawing, but he also explains how something that is delivered with the intent of being humorous could leave a serious emotional impact on someone else: “Too often, we don’t get/or even want to see the impact of racial slurs written around schools… even the people who do it don’t get to see the impact…but it’s hard to have it seen if you have been impacted by it, and I’ve been impacted by it.”

That is what inspired Spann to share the video to the Franklin community: Racism, with the intent of humor or not, is overlooked too often, especially when it is presented implicitly. Racism that is added into compliments or humor (microaggressions) are brushed off our shoulders due to the false idea that true racism is explicit and physically violent in nature. In his words, “I was just [becoming] kind of tired of incidents like that being swept under the rug…There’s the official response that happens, but it’s also understanding racism and other forms of ways we shame people, but it thrives when it’s hidden… It was triggering of the dehumanization that I face in the culture, and not so much the drawing itself, it was just a bad attempt at being funny.”

When interviewing Spann, he mentions consistently “The culture” that we live in and how the culture that we are constructed in is the root of these actions, rather than the individuals themselves: “We focus a lot on the act, and we focus a lot on the individual, and we take our eyes off the culture. In my teaching of the video, people asked me ‘ ‘did you find out who it was?’ ‘ and I say, ‘ I don’t know, and I don’t care to know. I blame the culture.’”

In Spann’s definition, the culture is “the felt experience of our collective story,” where although we are living in the same world, our experiences within the culture have different levels of recognition. In that same culture, we deal with wrongdoings or negative emotions with dehumanization, without any room for accountability or problem solving with the intent of witnessing growth in an individual.

Whitney Phillips, author and professor of Communication and Rhetorical studies at Syracuse University, has experienced the growth of this humor firsthand, which inspired her research into media study as a whole: “I thought I wanted to study political humor, but my brother, who at the time identified as a troll…kept telling me to go this site called 4chan…” 4chan is a bulletin-based website that was established in 2003, where anyone can post about any topic in the world anonymously. 4chan in modern day is infamous for the graphic nature of its content, whether it be gore, racism, shooting threats, and more, but that dub of the website wasn’t stamped on in its early years. Phillips explains, “Back then, it wasn’t known in the same way it is now as being a hotbed of white supremacist activity, but it was still a deeply problematic space…” On 4chan, what forms the website as a problematic space is the mass amount of “identity based antagonism,” where conflict that occurred was surrounded around a person’s identity. Phillips talks about her brother asking her at this time to explore 4chan at a consistent rate. “My brother pushed me to 4chan, he just wanted to [I think] freak me out… when I encountered it, it was so egregious, and so transgressive…”

Witnessing the uniqueness of 4chan at this time inspired Phillips to write her first dissertation-turned-book titled This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, which is inspired from seeing mainstream media and this more controversial form of media combine with each other in the name of comedy. Phillips says, “I became very interested especially because there was a lot of overlap between what I was seeing on this ‘bad space,’ and then more kind of mainstream spaces that we’re dealing more with [ex: Politics]… and also popular internet memes that many at the the time [2008], were emanating from 4chan.” Following the interest of dark humor and the way it became part of mainstream media, Phillips decided to switch her focus onto the ambivalence of dark humor in her second book titled The Ambivalent Internet. Phillips explains, “When people say the word ambivalent, they often misuse it and think it means ‘I don’t care’ [or in other terms, apathy], but ambivalent actually means both on both sides: It’s two opposing strongly held beliefs held at the same time.”

Ambivalence within dark humor is what protects it from criticism because ambivalence protects the true intentions within the material. One common example of this is presenting the joke or meme with a nonchalant posture, that way, confronting the joke with criticism deems the confronter as someone who cannot take a joke. Franklin High school senior Sophie Locker, just like many others, has had experience with confronting this avoidant tactic, except for her, it’s been implemented on her own identities by her own family. “A family member of mine.. He’s 50 [which is pretty young, has] alienated several members of my family including myself through this kind of jokey bigotry…they always told the line enough to where it feels like you can’t quite call it out… it’s always enough of a joking tone that if you call it out or you get offended, you’re the instigator.” When a person clings on to dark humor long enough, this form of humor has a chance of being conditioned into more serious ideologies due to its ambivalent nature. The way ambivalence affects the viewer is that it makes the intent or punchline of a dark joke or meme convincing, especially to the younger generation who have little experience with the outside world to begin with. This makes them more susceptible to falling down the “Alt Right” Pipeline, an internet term used to describe the concept of media algorithms aligning dark humor with alt-right politics. This causes a shift from humor to serious ideologies due to the uncensorship that comes with shocking humor. When we are uncensored, we naturally feel free, and this is emphasized with people who are feeling isolated. Not only do the isolated feel free to express, but they also feel a sense of security. Locker explains that “It’s really one of those things where you can go one of two directions. Normally, it’s just either you mature out of it: you dip your toes in it as an impressionable young person, and then at a certain point… you realize it’s ridiculous, or you become further entrenched in it. The way [alt right communities] thrive on that social isolation can make it so much harder to get out of it because you’re surrounded by people who believe the same things as you, and are telling you that you’re right and everyone else is wrong.” 

With that being said, due to the climate of our world in which we are driven by the fear of being found out abruptly, and the exposure of antagonism in others, dark humor is not going anywhere. No matter how much we try to ban the telling of shocking jokes and the sharing of controversial memes, dark humor will always find its way back into our minds, and our screens, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible to unlearn the use of dark humor and reflect on our intent with sharing dark humor in order to create growth in ourselves and our communities. According to Spann, “In a strange way, I think if we were connected more, then the need for dark humor would not exist as much…It would still exist, it’s just the thing that gets fulfilled when people [ who go to dark humor would be able to be fulfilled in more harmless and inclusive forms of humor ].” Not only does a sense of community and intent of reflection rather than cancellation help combat the overuse of shocking humor, but the focus on digital footprint and the recognition of lack of knowledge of intentions can help the sharing of shocking humor decrease. Phillips states that “Sometimes, this content gets shared, even if it’s shared in the spirit of humor or if it’s shared in the spirit of critique…it still spreads. It could be intercepted by someone who is not in on the joke and who in fact [believe sexism or racism is an ideology] and spread it with hateful intent.” 

Lastly, combating dark humor with neutrality and question rather than reaction, is a helpful way to not only strike up reflection upon the sharer, but also could diminish the need for offensive jokes to be told. “Don’t laugh. It’s so easy to fall into the peer pressure of [disrupting the social circle but], if you can stop it at the ‘it’s just a joke’ stage, then it doesn’t have the space to blossom into a widespread ideology, and it also says to the people that the joke targets that this won’t be tolerated… It’s either the dead face stare [or ‘what do you mean by that?’] that makes them feel uncomfortable [due to lack of reactive response].”  Locker says. To challenge the people who are motivated by the discomfort of others, while still holding a space for reflection and growth, can make the isolated feel more welcomed into the culture, without the need for the thrill of shock and morbidness.

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 Could a Motorcycle Be the Right Choice for You?

Display Suzuki GSX at See See Motorcycle Coffee, shown to all coffee enjoyers that walk into the store. Thor Drake established the company in Portland in 2009. Photo by Joseph Howitt.

Motorcycles have always been associated with the dangerous, fearless and daredevil members of our society, as per the preconceived image of them being two-wheeled death traps. In most modern day media, motorcycles are given a narrative of a certain edginess, and danger associated. It’s hard not to think of these stigmas when watching a show or a movie, and the stereotypical leather jacket, Ray Ban-wearing character shows up on their motorcycle. However, including the popular reappearance of mopeds, two-wheeled motor vehicles are making a comeback, at least in Portland, Oregon. It might be time to consider purchasing one. 

There is definitely a narrative in Hollywood about motorcycles, whether it be through pictures like Terminator 2, Mad Max, Lara Croft in Tomb Raider, or even Anime such as Akira. These famous bikes have been associated with high octane action films, because of the perceived danger. However, that is not always the case in real life, as most riders could also enjoy a Sunday ride down the street. People also choose to ride motorcycles due to the low emission levels and the fact that it’s a more practical mode of transport suited to their lifestyle. Many riders understand the risks that are present, but still choose to ride because of the enjoyment. Bikers almost always take precaution; as of today, it is extremely rare to see a motorcyclist without their full protective gear, being mostly composed of helmets, heavy jackets and knee/elbow pads, ensuring a lowered chance of injury if they were to fall or crash. 

When thinking about who should get motorcycles, what about younger people? The median age for motorcyclists was 50 years of age as of 2018, according to a study done by the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC). The lowest number registered in an age group were high schoolers, for obvious reasons, as for years motorcycles have been wildly unpopular among youngsters. In Oregon, the minimum age for obtaining your motorcycle license is 16 years old, the same as a car. 

Under the Motorcycles and Scooters section in the community agreements in the 2021-2022 Franklin High School student handbook, it states, “These are motor vehicles and must be licensed and insured. They should be registered in the Vice Principal’s office.” To get to the bottom of why this is, I investigated the rules surrounding student parking and if there were any exceptions if the student had a motorcycle. Vice Principal Scott Burns answers my questions about this mystery: “There is no student parking on the facility. The passage in the student handbook most likely refers to any case of a student parking somewhere they are not allowed, and the school being able to know [what student the vehicle belongs to].” If that is the case, why is it mentioned? Maybe it is to encourage students to get their own motorcycles. Of course, that is a stretch, as Franklin has not had a lot of students owning these vehicles, however that is able to change. 

Places like See See Motorcycle Co. and their coffee shops around Portland, including one on Sandy, are very friendly to fellow riders. They supply coffee to Portlanders no matter the vehicle they choose to drive. Anywhere in Portland you can find motorcycle parking, and it’s easier to ride through those narrow, neighborhood streets on a motorcycle, rather than having to pull over and let another car pass, on the off chance that you will have to experience that awkward ‘wave at the person and put it in reverse to let them through’ situation. Although riders can’t weave in traffic like they can in California, it doesn’t make that much of a difference. With that being said, I do not suggest anyone ride on the freeway due to a rise in motorcycle crashes on busier roads. 

Why should high schoolers get motorcycles? Gas prices are cheaper, (right now that is a very welcomed idea), less area to clean, and you are almost always guaranteed a parking spot, so you won’t have to park 5 blocks away from the front of Franklin, due to the unfortunate parking situation at our school. You can’t deny, it looks cooler than other modes of transport as well. There are risks to take into consideration as well, as there are in any vehicle. Because there are no airbags to protect the driver, they are considerably more dangerous than a car. However, if you pick it up quickly, you won’t have to worry about crashing, rather other reckless drivers. “First of all, motorcycles do cost less and get better gas mileage, therefore making it easier for the day to day expenses associated with transportation. Because the motorcycle requires the driver to remain focused on the road in front of him or her and to keep both hands on the handlebars, there are fewer distractions to deal with,” states Ed Anderson, a writer for The Medium, an online news website. This is a good point, as there are zero chances for the rider to have their phone out to distract them from the road.

Motorcycles have been given a bad rap by many parents and adults, however the majority of riders are over 30. It’s time that younger people take the consideration into their own hands, and give motorcycles a try, as it could end up being your favorite way to get around.

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Defending the Misunderstood: Pit Bulls

Photo caption: Pitbull “Mr. Worldwide” with a pit bull. Pit bulls are one of the most misunderstood dog breeds and must be released from negative stigmas. Illustration by Ayanna Villanueva.

Being terrified of big dogs is understandable. Before I moved to America, I grew up in the Philippines and was terrified of dogs—especially big ones such as pit bulls and German shepherds. In fact, the only big dogs I liked were Scooby-Doo and Clifford the Big Red Dog. But it’s 2022, the world is progressing, and so should our mindsets. We must eradicate the stigma surrounding dog breeds of any type and avoid generalizing them.

When the majority of people think of the most threatening dog breeds, more often than not, pit bulls are at the top of their list. Pit bull is a general term used to refer to different breeds that include the American pit bull terrier, the American Staffordshire terrier, the Staffordshire bull terrier, American bully, and the American bulldog. People’s perceptions of pit bulls are primarily influenced by how they are portrayed in the media, as well as throughout history. Due to their bulky appearance, strong jaws, and sharp teeth, pit bulls are portrayed as dangerous, awful, beasts who mercilessly kill the weak. A popular myth asserts that pit bulls can lock their jaws which prevents them from releasing their bites. They are also seen as dangerous canines with poor temperaments compared to other dog breeds. On top of that, some consider them as a breed that isn’t family nor kid friendly due to their dog-fighting and bull-baiting history. 

In an interview with Oregon Humane Society’s (OHS) Training and Behavior Department Manager, Tanya Roberts, she asserts that some people are afraid of dogs in general due to personal experiences. “There have been media stories of pit bulls or pit bull-like dogs being dangerous and some people may have had personal experience.” 

The pit bull stigma is believed to have begun with their bull-baiting history, which dates back to England, where crossbred terriers and bulldogs were forced to attack bulls or bears. Bull-baiting was later on outlawed because of the magnitude of its violence, however dog-fighting eventually took its place. Pitbulls were pitted against each other for the purpose of entertaining humans—who later on feared them. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be cautious, but the fact that humans trained these dogs to be dangerous makes the human even more monstrous in contrast to the dog who’s just obeying their owners commands.

Pit bulls should not be blamed for their alleged “strong locking jaws.” They also shouldn’t be blamed for their inherent instinct to defend themselves. It is not the pit bull’s physical attributes that should be blamed. Some pit bulls are susceptible to aggressive behaviors because of the poor mistreatment and lousy training they receive from their owners. 

It is proven that pit bulls’ jaws are functionally identical to other dog breeds and lack any locking mechanism whatsoever. In fact, the jaw strength of Rottweilers and German shepherds are more intense compared to that of a pit bull. Moreover, the breed and physical attributes of a dog do not determine the magnitude of their aggression. Any dog, no matter the breed, can be aggressive if provoked. The American Veterinary Medical Association states that “the breed of a dog is not a reliable marker of destructive behavior in dogs.” A study on canine aggression also indicated that there is little difference in aggression between pit bulls and golden retrievers—which are known for their good temperaments. Aside from the misconception that pit bulls are unfriendly and hence unadoptable, any dog, regardless of appearance, is adoptable. Pit bulls were even considered as “nanny dogs” in the 1900s due to their faithful, friendly, and adorable characteristics.

These controversial misconceptions have stirred a lot of animosity for pit bulls and caused a lot of missed opportunities to find a loving home for them. Due to the misleading stories and stereotypes found in the media that tend to focus on negativity and refuse to talk about the success stories of pit bulls, the breed has been loathed, abused, and even abandoned. 

Fortunately, despite the negativity surrounding pit bull terriers, they have a big fan club and are a family-favorite here in Oregon. “[When it comes to adoption], I would say that they are no different in our shelter to any of the other breeds or mixes,” Roberts stated. She then goes on to explain the only limitation and difficulty in terms of adopting a pit bull is when it comes to housing, “they can be listed as a breed that rentals won’t accept, so moving with a pit bull or finding a home might be more difficult. Size plays a part too, as some apartments have a weight limit, not a breed restriction, that excludes them.”

Taking everything into account, it is not the pit bull who should be condemned and bear all the pain. The people who trained these dogs to be ‘dangerous’ are the ones to be condemned and the people who perpetuate the stereotypes about pit bulls. The owners are the ones to blame. They are responsible and play a huge role in their dogs’ behavior. 

Roberts emphasizes the importance of the use of positive reinforcement training methods and the appropriate socialization of dogs. “Recognizing that some people are wary of the breed is very important and the owner should never approach someone with their dog, no matter how friendly.” Every dog is an individual and reacts differently to certain situations; therefore owners must take it into consideration that proper training involves learning about and acknowledging their dogs’ flaws.

Dogs, regardless of breed, are individuals with distinct personalities, behaviors, temperaments, and skills that shouldn’t be stereotyped. If you’re looking at adopting: go into the dog adoption process with an open mind and remember that every dog, regardless of background or breed, deserves a loving home. Approach all dogs with caution because they all react differently. Don’t be fooled by the media’s perception of these furry friends; pit bulls are the most adorable canines, with the waggiest of tails and endearing personalities, who enjoy cuddling all day.

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Your Response to the War in Ukraine Matters

Everyone has a moral obligation to face and address the suffering of others. As the war in Ukraine continues, American citizens must confront this moral obligation. This can be difficult, especially if you’re not sure what you can do, but it is necessary. 

“As social creatures we prioritize our group over other groups,” says Franklin AP Psychology and AP U.S. History teacher Greg Garcia. This is a phenomenon known as in-group bias, a pattern of favoring members of one’s own group over those in other groups, and it has been prevalent in personal responses to the war in Ukraine. The problem is that, as Garcia states, “…instead of arguing that you have one country that’s democratic being attacked, and emphasizing the values of freedom and democracy… over authoritarianism, [some American citizens would] rather contrast that and emphasize the bad parts, the elements of discomfort, and because of other biases, we’re emphasizing the economic cost here instead of other tragedies that are unfolding [in Ukraine].” 

Many Americans have turned to jokes about the possibility of a draft in the United States or expressing frustration about rising gas prices—American-centric responses to a crisis an ocean away. While fear is a valid reaction and coping can include jokes, we must also turn to face the suffering that is occuring right now. We must recognize that things like increased gas prices due to sanctions on Russia, are a minimal, worthwhile sacrifice. 

Many people have been finding ways of fulfilling their moral obligation. Some have been raising money for Ukrainian forces or refugees, and others have even traveled to Poland to actively provide refugee aid. People around the world, including Russian citizens, have been protesting the war or volunteering to fight with the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Volunteers joining causes they believe in has been a theme throughout history. One such conflict was the Spanish Civil War, a war in which the United States was neutral. Many people from around the world joined the fight, including several thousand Americans known as the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Garcia references a very apt quote by Mark Twain, “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” Not only does it rhyme in violence and war, but also support and aid.

Providing that aid and support doesn’t have to be extreme. Simply writing letters to your legislators communicating support for sanctions against Russia, including communicating acceptance of rising gas prices, can be meaningful. By supporting the United States government’s actions against Russia, you are making an impact. Politicians should not have to choose between being reelected and offering support to Ukraine. 

Direct support isn’t the only option, and action should also be taken to address overarching issues like the sources of Russia’s power. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Russia was the world’s third-largest producer of petroleum and other liquids (after the United States and Saudi Arabia) in 2020.” To avoid future reliance on the natural gas resources of other countries, like Russia, you can push for a turn to renewable energy. Donating to environmental organizations and supporting politicians who are in favor of progressive climate agendas can contribute to that push. You can also choose to walk or bike instead of driving whenever that is an option, reducing your personal use of natural gas resources. Constructing one’s own perspectives on an issue and continuing to educate yourself can help define the kind of action that you want to take. You can read up on the history of the relationship between Russia and Ukraine with resources like the New York Times. You can also donate to organizations like UNICEF and Doctors Without Borders to help provide health care and other support to Ukrainians.

There are many options for varying degrees of support and those of us who can do so should fulfill our moral obligation to help others. Choosing to question our own in-group bias and support Ukrainians is necessary in their time of great need. As humans who exist in this world it is on every single one of us to uphold the values of freedom and democracy and to stop turning a blind eye to human suffering in other countries because it is the easiest choice. Right now your attention should turn towards Ukraine.

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Welfare Queens, Temporarily Embarrassed Millionaires, and the Mythology of the American Poor

Linda Taylor, whose popular nickname was the first American use of the term “Welfare Queen.” The media spread photographs of her wearing a fur coat and sequined hat on her way to receive welfare checks. Illustration by Sophie Locker.

“‘Welfare queen’ jailed in Tucson,” proclaimed the Chicago Tribune on October 12, 1974. A few days prior, Linda Taylor had been arrested after fleeing across state lines in one of the nation’s most public incidents of welfare fraud, initial charges alleging the use of over 80 aliases to fraudulently obtain over $100,000—about $175,170 today. The public seized her image in an instant. This woman, draped in furs, cruising up to receive her welfare checks in a Cadillac, was rapidly fictionalized into a bogeyman for the fearful fiscal conservatism of white America. This idea was quickly adopted by Ronald Reagan in his 1976 presidential campaign. She was the perfect piece of propaganda: with a story just real enough to twist into a universal truism, politicians and pundits could conflate her with welfare recipients as a whole. 

Reagan referred to Taylor frequently, though never by name. Rather, he spoke of a “Chicago woman,” living like a duchess off the taxpayer’s dollar, just as he conjured images of T-bone steaks bought with food stamps and housing projects with eleven-foot ceilings and swimming pools. The message was clear: the audience was meant to gawk at the undue excesses of the poor and walk away with the conclusion that the freeloading lower class was, en masse, reaping the undeserved benefits of a dangerously permissive welfare state. Reagan, in his frequent dog-whistling appeals to white southerners, helped incite racist fervor toward the welfare system he regarded as a cancer—with single black mothers making up its most malignant cells. 

The mythology of the welfare queen has long outlived Linda Taylor’s cultural relevance as an individual. Reaganomics—and its overseas sibling in neoliberalism Thatcherism—appealed regularly to this moral panic regarding the idea of the “undeserving poor.” Reagan and Margaret Thatcher alike argued for austerity-driven policy not only as an absolutely necessary economic solution, but also as a rectitude to the perceived disruption of the natural order posed by the inappropriate luxuries of the poor. “[In a Neoliberal framework] the organization of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers,” political columnist George Monbiot explains for The Guardian. “Inequality is recast as virtuous…Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.”

Neoliberalism—which is fundamental to, if debasing of modern conservatism—holds true that inequality is a natural and correct product of inherent disparities between individuals. The belief that the market intuitively rewards those who are, by nebulous definition, “better” (i.e. more industrious, more hardworking, more self-made) is almost a secular mutation of Prosperity Gospel, replacing the Hand of God with the invisible hand of the free market. The natural extension of this thought is that the poverty of individuals is not a systemic issue: it’s an individual failing.

This attitude, though often unspoken, is a near constant undertone to the American outlook toward the poor. So much of the political discourse in the United States boils down to the assumption that the recipients of government relief are, by nature, undeserving. The poor are dehumanized by pernicious stereotypes that are eagerly eaten up by those who cling to their unfailing faith in the righteousness of the free market. Rugged American individualism requires that the people be seen as only that: atomized individuals whose economic fate is in their own hands. By extension, it creates a culture of apologism toward poverty. In the simplest terms, if capitalism is fair, the outcomes that occur within capitalism are fair. If a person’s outcome within a fair capitalist system is poor, they have failed. If we are to acknowledge that a person’s outcomes within the system are not always in their own hands, then we must acknowledge that our outcomes are not always in our own. This is what makes the moralization of poverty so enduring. It’s not just a convenient justification to cut back welfare spending; it’s a comfort.

The reality is that the people who most staunchly oppose government aid tend to be the ones who would benefit most from it. Southern states, in which fear of government handouts is oftentimes strongest, have some of the highest rates of poverty in the nation. Many of the firmest believers in the idea that poverty is an individual moral failing are the same people that dogma vilifies. Why is it that so many people are able to not only vote, but ostensibly think against their own interests? 

In a way, the moralization of poverty is an emotional safety net we place between ourselves and those whose conditions we don’t want to see ourselves in. When we rationalize to ourselves, even subconsciously, that the homeless man who lives in the encampment down the street is there by virtue of some moral failing, we draw a line between ourselves and him. You’re not like him. You can’t be. You work, pay your taxes and tried hard in school; well, maybe not that hard, but you tried, and he must not have tried hard enough, because why else would he be there? Because if he did all that and he’s still there, could the same become true of you?

The uncomfortable truth is that if you’re anything like the majority of Americans, you probably have more in common with the average homeless person than any of the people living the opulent lives we prefer to turn our eyes to. John Steinbeck famously said that the reason socialism never took root in America is “because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” It’s in part this tendency to identify with the ever-distant wealthy, particularly symptomatic to individualistic American capitalism, that makes people so quick to shun the poor as a class of untouchables. You could be in their position shockingly easily, but it’s far more comfortable to view oneself as the first half of a success story, one of those “temporarily embarrassed millionaires” who just hasn’t hit their lucky break yet, than to identify oneself as a member of a greater subjugated working class, to recognize the bleakness of modern possibilities for upward mobility, of the ever-widening wealth gap, of the floundering American poor.

If we want to make any progress in addressing poverty, it’s essential that we acknowledge homeless and/or poverty-stricken people as members of our own communities—not interlopers, intruders, or trash to be picked up. We cannot simultaneously understand poverty as the function of a deeply unequal system and draw a moral line between ourselves and those less fortunate than us. To unlearn the hierarchical narratives ingrained into us through a lifetime under capitalism is a long and difficult journey, but it is one that can begin with the simple act of empathy.

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Adopt or Shop? Thoughts on the Dog Adoption Controversy

Past residents of the Oregon Humane Society. These puppies are some of many the shelter cared for until they found a home. Photo by Clara Johnk.

There’s nothing like the feeling of adopting a dog. Whether it’s a two pound Chihuahua or a 200 pound English Mastiff, people everywhere know the excitement of bringing home a new furry friend. While pet owners can all agree on that universal joy, some elements of adoption can spark controversy, namely, the “right way” to adopt. People find new pets in a variety of ways, some of the most popular being shelters and breeders. Many favor the former when considering the ethics of adoption, but the best choice a potential adopter can make is always an informed one, where they take both their lifestyle and the practices of the adoption organization into account.

Because the idea of a new dog is so exciting, and puppy-dog eyes are very persuasive, it’s not uncommon for people to jump into adoptions without getting to know the animal first. Whether it’s a dog that they’re not able to take out on runs every day, or one whose grooming appointments are an unanticipated cost they can’t afford, new adopters can often get stuck with dogs they’re not able to properly care for. “People just get kind of caught up in the moment and later realize, hey, you know there’s more medical [attention required] than I want, or this puppy takes much more time than I [can manage],” said Ben Graham, a Customer Care Representative at the Oregon Humane Society (OHS). “My biggest [recommendation] for people is to not get too caught up in the looks of the dog, and really pay attention and listen to what [OHS staff] are saying about the animals. Make sure that you’re not biting off more than you can chew.” While Graham emphasized that there’s no shame in needing to return a dog that isn’t the right fit, adoption isn’t something to be taken lightly. With the care that OHS takes to screen dogs, both behaviorally and medically, and the effort they put in to assist in finding a good match, it’s important that adopters do their part to be informed about the animal they take home.

Additionally, while OHS is a shelter that provides the option to surrender an animal, as well as an abundance of resources for pet-owners, not every organization operates like they do. In fact, devoted pet owner Bentley Walker’s experience with adopting her cat Frida from a shelter was much less positive. Frida had feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), and with that, Walker explained, came “very special needs.” Because FIV weakened Frida’s immune system, she was vulnerable to secondary health conditions, including oral infections, meaning her teeth needed to be cleaned often. “[Frida] was at a shelter, but they were poorly funded,” said Walker. “They did not treat their animals well, so she ended up losing a lot of her teeth.” Her story serves as a reminder that, no matter what type of organization it is, there’s no guarantee that their practices will be safe and humane. Often, the argument over how to adopt is reduced to whether you choose a breeder or shelter, but just picking one or the other without further research presents its own issue. Finding a reputable place that truly cares about their animals can be extra work, but it’s an important step in adopting responsibly.

Despite this, many people believe adopting from breeders is always the wrong choice. Perhaps the largest contributor to this mindset is the fact that, unlike dogs at a shelter who are taken in because they’re in need of a home, puppies from breeders are born for the purpose of making a profit. This means breeders will sometimes resort to exploitative practices in order to produce and sell as many puppies as they can, a type of breeding called a puppy mill. Conditions in puppy mills are typically cramped and filthy, and female dogs are forced to birth litter after litter. Because puppy mill breeders aim to produce purebred puppies as efficiently as possible, those litters often come from inbreeding, where genetically similar dogs are bred, which lowers the genetic diversity of the offspring and increases their risk of certain defects and diseases. With the number of dogs already in need of a home—a staggering estimated 3.1 million in the US—adopting from breeders begins to appear unnecessary, if not selfish. 

However, in the world of breeders, there are many reputable ones that can serve a purpose much beyond appearance. Over her life, Walker has adopted from both shelters and breeders, and she described her choice to go with a breeder as, “finding a dog that suited [her] needs.” Walker was looking for a puppy with specific traits that she could train to serve as an emotional support animal for her post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety. The task of finding the right animal would have been almost impossible in shelters, so through research she discovered a transparent, supportive breeder who treated the dogs as treasured pets, and from there, found her dog Malcolm. “If we’d been told we couldn’t go into the home to see how the animals were treated, or that we couldn’t see the puppies before we bought one, I would have said no,” she affirmed. Ultimately, Walker’s success came largely from knowing what she needed, and committing to only buying from people who she knew put the animals first. 

In all, once someone has truly considered their lifestyle and the operations of the organization they’re adopting from, the debate over breeders versus shelters loses some significance. Shelters can be an ideal choice for some, while breeders present an alternative for those who need it. When they’re the right fit for a household, dogs become cherished family members and friends. What’s most important is that people get new pets having done their best to responsibly find that right fit, and are excited to welcome and care for their new dog.