Friday, December 16, 2016


“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” 
                                                Oprah Winfrey
                                                                                                                                                December 19, 2016

Dear LoMA Family,

One of my favorite courses in college was ethics, a philosophy class that studied what was right and wrong and how we know. While we all generally have a good general moral sense of what is right and wrong, too rarely do we take time to consider where these values come from and how good values can come into conflict.  For instance, how do people resolve the moral dilemma that occurs when one has to decide between protecting a friend and telling the truth?
According to Notre Dame’s sociologist Christian Smith, young people today are thinking about these issues less than previous generations. He has recently come out with a new book on the moral values of young people based on interviews with hundreds of young people around the country. The results were not promising. When asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds of the young people either couldn’t answer the question or described problems that are not moral at all, like whether they could afford to rent a certain apartment or whether they had enough quarters to feed the meter at a parking spot. When asked about wrong or evil, they could generally agree that rape and murder are wrong. But, aside from these extreme cases, moral thinking didn’t enter the picture, even when considering things like drunken driving, cheating in school, or cheating on a partner. “I don’t really deal with right and wrong that often,” is how one interviewee naively put it. Whether they know so or not, these situations represent just some of the many moral decisions people make every day.   I would guess that for our kids, most of these decisions involve honesty and treating others fairly. But even when we do something as mundane as deciding where we shop, we are making moral decisions. For instance, I stopped eating at McDonalds thirty years ago because of its role in deforestation and it labor practices. Who we choose to support with our spending money has moral implications.
In explaining how they make moral decisions, most of the young people Smith interviewed said that it was just a matter of individual taste.  Their naïve responses ranged from “It’s personal,” to “It’s up to the individual. Who am I to say?” and “I would do what I thought made me happy or how I felt. I have no other way of knowing what to do but how I internally feel.” I would like to think that these people were not really so thoughtless. When my bicycle wheel was stolen last week, I was not saying that it was a “personal” decision of the thief or “who am I to say” that it was wrong. Stealing is wrong. Lying is wrong. Cheating is wrong.
I know that the great majority of LoMA’s students are moral. They show this when they follow the rules, act honestly and take care of school property. Nevertheless, I think it is important that they give thought to what makes things moral and how to handle moral dilemmas when different values come into conflict. That is why we use The Book of Questions in advisories, study oppression in humanities, and Supreme Court cases in history. LoMA students need to know that their actions have moral implications and that there is a very real difference between right and wrong.

Be Good,

John Wenk

December 21              4:00-8:00        Senior Jam Fundraiser in the Black Box (all grades invited)
December 23-January 2                     Vacation
January 5                                            Alumni Day

Dear LoMA Family,

This week’s Shaka entry is a collection of anecdotes from a Junior Advisory about times they have made decisions for moral reasons.  Enjoy.
            One time I had to go to school for a Regents exam, but I had a championship basketball game at the same time.  But of course I chose the exam because I needed to take the test to pass and get long-term success.

            One time my friend was supposed to fight, and I had to turn in these two assignments, or I would fail. I had to choose what to do.  What I did is tell him to come with me and so I could finish those assignments to make myself pass.  Two birds, one stone.

            I have learned to make better choices.  When my grades were low, I chose to start hanging out with people that would help my future by bringing my grades up. Surrounding myself with better people worked, even though I lost some people I thought were friends.

            I had to face a big decision in school, I chose to hang out with the right people and go to class.  We can mostly do the work and just have fun.  I was thinking about how they will affect me in the school year and the future.  This is when I think I felt like joining after-school activities to make myself go to tutoring.  This is what happened when I thought of the future of my life.

            I’m currently on high honor roll, and been in honor roll in the past.  Throughout my life in school I have always passed with flying colors; grades have always been the utmost important thing for me to be focused on.  Last year I got really depressed over my grades to the point of thinking of giving up and spending my days with no friends and no future, but now I’m a part of this family. When I see my friends in the same state I used to be in and I cannot do a thing about it, it crushes me.  It makes me question if I’m a good person if I don’t help others.  And the answer is no, I’m not, and neither is anyone else for that matter.  Even when I cannot help others, I can at least help myself, and to comfort them and tell them, “you’re not going too fast”, “you’re going to be standing right beside me in graduation”, and “you’re going to be whoever you want even though you’ll potentially be stuck in an office working on a computer wondering what happened”.

            I had to make a decision whether or not I would take the blame for my “friends” and get sent to Juvenile Detention, or tell on everybody and be “free” while my “friends” serve their consequences.  My “friends” and I were caught stealing from school and were arrested.  We were being charged with a multitude of felonies and were taken in to be questioned.  The pressure was hot, and there was a lot of things going through my mind.  “What are they going to say?  Will they tell on me?  Will they have my back and hold it down?”  I wanted to stay loyal to my friends- to take the blame.  I pay the bid.  I had to think about what to do and what to say.

            We all face a moral dilemmas at some point in our lives, whether it’s something big or something little.  I was faced with a moral dilemma the other day.  I had to pick between my schoolwork, or my best friend.  I’ve always been told since a young age to put my schoolwork before anyone else, because at the end of the day, your hard work will take you somewhere in life.
During my short amount of time to choose between either my best friend or my schoolwork, I chose my best friend, not knowing how long how long she would take.  I realized quickly my choice was not wise, and it left me in a sticky situation; I was so caught up in my friendship I forgot I had to make up a test that I wasn’t present for and wound up having only ten minutes to take the test.  I failed to finish it.  The moral of my story is to think wisely before you make your decision.  Yeah, your best friend is important, but does he or she really care about what’s best for you, too, or just for them?

Make thoughtful choices,


Friday, December 9, 2016

Feminism Today

Text Box: Save Lewis!
                                                                                                                                  December 12, 2016
Dear LoMA Family,

Last month’s election affected many people in different ways, but I have been hearing from many of my women friends and students about how hurt they feel that the strongest woman candidate in American history was beat by a man who exhibited strong signs of sexism and bragged about sexually abusing women. According to exit polls, most voters, even those who voted for Mr. Trump, said they thought Ms. Clinton was more qualified for office. On the other hand, Mr. Trump mocked women’s appearance, denigrated Alicia Machado (the former Miss Universe) and told Hillary Clinton she didn’t have a presidential “look” or “stamina.” As we have learned over the last few decades, when men (and women for that matter) think this way and say these things it has real effects.  
Like racism and homophobia, sexism in our society has insidious and lasting effects on its targets. For example, only 14% of sixth grade girls report having low self-confidence, but that number rises to 36% by grade 12. We must recognize that our society promotes negative self-confidence among girls through insistent media images on-line, in movies and on television. Companies spend hundreds of millions on advertising to make girls feels inadequate so that they can make billions in fashion, make-up and weight-loss programs.
It’s easy to say that words and images shouldn’t hurt, but they do. We can see it in the fact that women get paid less, hired less and promoted less than men resulting in the fact that they only make 80 cents to each dollar a man makes. A three-year-old Princeton University study by Moss-Racusin et. al. demonstrated this in a convincing manner. They sent hiring officers at universities across the U.S. identical résumés for a lab-manager job that differed only in the gender of the hypothetical applicants. The résumé raters scored the male candidate higher on competence and hirability and were also more likely to offer the male candidate a bigger salary. By contrast, the hypothetical female applicants were rated more likable but less hirable. Furthermore they saw that the sexism crossed gender lines as female scientists were just as likely to favor male candidates as potential hires as male scientists were, a distressing sign of internalized sexism.
On top of this discrimination, women have a harder time being perceived as both likable and assertive. This was a big problem for Secretary Clinton and too many other women. It is still far too common to hear the “B” word in reference to women who are assertive. This is especially disturbing when one considers that there is no equivalent slur for an assertive man as so much of our society looks up to the “tough” man even if he is obnoxious.
Having said all of this, there are still reasons for hope. There are numerous studies that show a growing shift in gender dynamics among young men – they are much more likely to want egalitarian relationships and say they care about equality. Also, Secretary Clinton’s loss cannot be entirely blamed on sexism. She did win the popular vote by two and a half million votes. Most promising of all were the results down ballot where there were several firsts for women. The senate again has a female African American Senator in Kamela Harris (who is also Indian) from California and Catherine Cortez Musto of Nevada is America’s first Latina Senator. In the House of Representatives, Ilhan Omar is a Somali-American former refugee. Pramila Jayapal is now our first Indian American Congressperson and Cyrus Habib is the first from Iran. In Oregon, Kate Brown is America’s first gay or lesbian governor.
The treatment of Secretary Clinton should be upsetting on many levels, but this list is a very impressive sign that women are gaining political power at all levels; our government is truly becoming more diverse. And that can only lead to more fairness and opportunity.

What are you doing to make life fairer for women?

John Wenk

Dear LoMA Family,

I'd like to start off by saying I'm 17, female, black, and live in a capitalist society where conservatives and liberals run rampant condemning those who don't share the same or similar values, and when it comes to talking about racism and sexism, we’ve elected a  person who lacks any REAL overt experience points in either.

“What?!” you gasp.

“Who let her write this?!” you cry out

I mean I can give you something, it just won't be any of that E! Investigates or True Crime crap. Not a 'back in my day' story, either, considering that you’re all currently living in 'my day'.

Now some of you may shout things like “Ummm, my grandmother’s-aunt’s-cousin voted for Barack Obama, and he's not a person of color!' Or “Nuh-uh! Gender roles are slowly withering. Yes, many gender roles are SLOWLY withering but not fast enough, and not for all people. (And Karen, I could care less about who your grandmother’s-aunt’s-cousin voted for).

During this past, atrocious election, it didn’t matter that people were characterized as American or un-American, progressive or regressive. That doesn't mean every person who voted for Trump is 'deplorable' (Hillary's words, not mine.) However, both candidates preyed on the fear and frustrations of the American people. Their behavior was inexcusable, as well as shameful.

Neither candidate was the greatest representation of American values.

This problem isn't gonna go away.  It doesn't matter how many times you click your ruby red Yeezy's together and chant. The only notable overtly racist thing that's been done to me is being singled out and followed around a 99 cents store. The only notable overt sexist thing that happened to me is being told to carry around pepper spray.  “You’re a girl, not a man! Your reaction time to an attack is slower.” OUCH, right?

Since the election, the number of hate crimes continues to rise, and that can be closely related to the bad behavior and poor attitudes that were fostered under the swaddling blanket of the “Us against Them” messages of the campaign.

   What does this mean for our country? Who knows?  I mean the CEO of Disney was considered a candidate for the President-Elect’s cabinet.  So were a white supremacist and several completely unqualified and inexperienced people.  So I guess anything’s possible these days, Ay?

Always Forward, Forward Always.

December 15              6:00                 Parents’ Association
December 15-17                                 LoMATE Performances of Remember Maine
December 21              4:00-8:00        Senior Jam Fundraiser in the Black Box (all grades invited)

Spirit Week
December 12                                       Pajama Day
December 13                                       School Colors Day
December 14                                       Twin Day
December 15                                       Blackout Day (wear all black)
December 16                                       Celebrity Day

Friday, December 2, 2016

Habits build Excellence

                                                                                                                                    December 5, 2016

Dear LoMA Family,

Aristotle, an ancient Greek philosopher, wrote that excellence is not an action but a habit. In some ways, I think what he meant was that we are not successful because of the big decisions we make or actions that we take, but the thousands of little decisions that we make every day that we may not even be conscious of. For example, the relationships you have with your friends is more often based on the little ways that you show that you care rather than any big demonstrations of friendship. What really matters in a friendship is how often you call, how you speak to each other, your body language and the words you use without thinking. In some ways, all of this adds up to your attitude towards your friends, and without the right attitude, you’re never going to have long-term friendships.
In the same way, your grades are more often determined by your attitude towards school than any major actions you take. The fact that you did well on a particular exam or completed a single homework is not as important as the thousands of little decisions that show your attitude towards school. Think about how many little decisions you make every day that add up to your final grade:  How well developed are your notes? How regularly and completely do you complete your homework? How much do you contribute to class discussion? Do you have the courage to come to tutoring? Do you ask questions when you don’t understand something.  
A student of mine did poorly on an essay last week. He was upset and told me that he had decided to really try, and he put a lot of effort into it. I recognized that he had, but his big decision to put several hours into planning, writing and editing it didn’t make enough of a difference because while I was teaching the material, he was often unfocused and his notes and homework were superficial. Without realizing it, he had already decided to fail before he even began the essay. 
Even though he made these decisions unconsciously, it still affected his grade. Consider body language for instance. The way that you sit in class will affect how attentive you are and how much you can learn. Dozens of studies have shown that simply by looking at whoever is speaking increases retention and understanding.
            If so many of these decisions are so minor and unconscious, then how do we change them so that we can become more successful? That is where the bigger decisions come in. For someone who is doing well in school, they don’t consciously decide to do their homework, participate in class or take exact notes; it has become a habit for them. I am always amazed to see the brightest kids in our school are the ones who attend tutoring the most while the neediest kids rush home to play video games. The students who are not getting the 83 average needs to decide that they are going to go to tutoring, stop talking to their friends during class and ask questions when they are confused. At first, these may be difficult decisions to follow through on – breaking bad habits can be very difficult – but with time, success will become more natural and self-reinforcing. 

Be conscious of your decisions,

John Wenk

December 8                5:45-8:00        Parent Teacher Conferences
December 9                9:30-1:00        Senior Trip to College of Staten Island
December 13              2:00                 Academic Achievement Awards
December 15              6:00                 Parents’ Association
December 15-17                                 LoMATE Performances of Remember Maine

This week’s Shaka entry is a collaborative effort on the part of two Junior Advisories.  They have collected stories and examples of ways that they have or have not yet built up the habits that lead to excellence.  Enjoy.
Success becomes a habit when you WANT to be successful--When you want to learn new things, when you want to have that two-story home and a great career.  Success becomes a habit when you choose to look after yourself and help yourself pay attention in class, hand in homework, and fulfill your responsibilities.  Once you focus on good habits, they will become part of your way of life and your way of thinking.
My time management is not the best. I usually stay up late doing homework, due to other home chores, outside activities and, honestly, distractions. There are a lot of times when I feel like I should just give up and not even turn in my homework. I know that the outcome of that will look terrible on my grades. I also know that if I get into that mindset, of just giving up and not bothering to finish, I will always do it, and eventually fall into a bad cycle. Recently I have been trying to finish my work earlier and build good habits. On that I haven’t gotten into is setting a timer, to really keep me on track and having a set time that I should be finished before.  Not giving up could go with more than just time management; it could go to fixing your grades, or increasing your stamina in reading. The main goal is to keep working and never give up, and you will reach success.
Success can become a habit when you want to become someone in life. In order to be successful in life, school-wise, you have to make sure you set certain goals in life. Some goals that I set for myself in school each marking period is to have an 85 and above average.
High school is very hard at times and you need a number of habits that can help you go a long way. When I say habits I don't mean bad ones of course but ones that help you get a 90 or maybe even more on a test. Personally I thought the beginning of high school was breeze and then came the first week of 11th grade. Dun dun dunnnnnnnnnn!! Anyways moving along, in order to survive with my grades I studied a lot. When I mean a lot ....... I MEAN A LOT!! Every time I had the chance to go to tutoring, you saw my butt in the classroom asking for help and an explanation. I don't really have anything I can say to help others because everyone has their own ways of getting good grades or ways that help them move along. If i were to say a few things as a helpful suggestion to success, I guess it would be the typical go to tutoring and study. I mean everyone says to do that but it really works and if you want try it too.
Success can't be achieved by just doing your work but also by building great relationships with the people around you. Talk to your teachers and classmates, build relationships with them that will later benefit yourself. Ask your teacher how their day is going. You don't want a teacher teaching with a nasty attitude; how would you ask questions, you would be scared of being yelled at. Talk to your classmates let them know not to misbehave, talking back to the teacher affects your learning time and how can you be successful without learning? 
LoMA has made me catch many habits. However not all of them are bad. One great habit I have picked up here at LoMA is studying with flashcards.  I have gotten into this habit and I have honestly seen a change in my test grades compared to when I don’t study. I have also picked up other topics here. For example I now stay in tutoring receiving help from my teachers and am involved in many extracurricular activities. At first I would want to go straight home to do nothing and just sleep, but now I have gotten into the habit of staying late in school and it does not bother me at all. 
Since freshman year I done so much better, and I've gotten better though my habits. For example when I come home from school, I take a nap and wake up refreshed, and then I start my homework. It really works, and also what's good is to go to tutoring before a test so you can go and study at home. Another simple thing you can do is to put due assignments in your calendar to remind yourself.

Build your habits, build your excellence.