School News Blog


 

Friday
Mar102017

Biotech's Take on the Electoral College

By: Samuel Mueller

Presidential elections. Fun! The 2016 election showcased a plethora of passion, debate and yes, controversy. The nation saw the surprise victory of Donald Trump after Hillary Clinton seemed to have more of the nation’s support. The news organization Real Clear Politics averaged the results of Trump vs.Clinton polls, and the Democrat appeared to have 47.5% of Americans’ votes, while the Republican had 45.3%. In the days before the election, Clinton seemed poised to win. Then the votes were counted.

Although Clinton won the popular vote by about 2.8 million votes, Trump assumed the presidency after winning the majority of votes in the Electoral College. It’s not the first time that has happened.. In 2000, Democrat Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College vote to Republican George W. Bush, who went on to become president. These results outraged many Democrats, who were angry the election went to the candidate with fewer votes. However, since the beginning of the nation’s history, the Electoral College has decided who took the presidency. The popular vote only serves as a measure to show the overall support for candidates.

So how exactly are our presidents elected, and what is the Electoral College?

Each state has a certain number of electors assigned to it based on that state’s population. The number of electors is the same number of people in Congress from that state. Therefore, each state has at least three electors (for the two senators and minimum of one representative in the House). California, the most populous state, has 55 electoral votes (and 55 members in Congress). New Jersey has 14 electoral votes. There are 538 electors who vote in the Electoral College.

All candidates, supported by their political party, have their own set of 538 electors assigned throughout the country, but those electors won’t vote unless their candidate wins the majority vote in each state. When a candidate wins the majority vote in each state, they “win” that state. This win allows the electors supporting that candidate to vote for them. So if a candidate wins 51% of the vote in New Jersey, they gain 14 electors who will cast their votes for that candidate. The electors of the other candidates will not be able to vote because their candidates did not win that state. This winner-takes-all system exists in 48 states. Nebraska and Maine have systems in which the majority winner wins two electoral votes, and the remaining electoral votes are distributed proportionally to the percentage of votes won.

The electors vote after Election Day, when it is decided which electors from which party are eligible to vote. When a candidate receives the majority vote in the Electoral College, 270 votes, he or she wins the presidency.

In two of the last five elections, the candidate who won the Electoral College vote lost the popular vote. Movement for the abolition of the College has grown in recent years because of this. Arguments from both sides are listed below.

Argument: The Electoral College should be abolished.

The Electoral College is an outdated system that doesn’t properly represent the United States. The popular vote is a stronger system that equally values all votes. Each vote is a direct vote for the presidency, not a vote to vote for somebody else to make a decision. The simple majority better demonstrates the representative democracy in our country.

First off, the value of each citizen’s vote depends on the state they live in.  The math here is compelling. According to the Census Bureau, Wyoming has a population of 532,668, and Texas has a population of 24,326,974 (about 45 times greater). Wyoming currently has three electoral votes, and Texas has 32. By using simple math, it can be found that in Wyoming, there is one elector per 177,566 people. On the other hand, Texas averages one elector for every 760,217 people. This inequally represents people’s views, and prevents one vote from mattering as much as someone else’s in a different state. This is a problem the popular vote entirely avoids by counting each vote as equal, regardless of location.

Next, a candidate can win a state with the simplest majority. In elections, states are classified as either swing states or safe states. Safe states, which have historically voted for one party, ensure a candidate support. For example, California and New York are safe states for Democrats, while Texas and Georgia are safe states for Republicans. On the other hand, swing states such as Florida and Ohio have been won by both parties over the years. Under the Electoral College, almost half of a state’s support for a candidate won’t count if they lose the majority vote. This can lose a candidate millions of votes.

Another issue is the theoretical outcome of an election under the Electoral College system. A candidate can win the majority vote in the 12 largest states and win the Electoral College; however, this is only about 21.8% of the nation’s population. This is a massive misrepresentation of the nation. Although improbable, an election similar to the hypothetical outcome previously stated is still possible. It certainly should not be.

Lastly, the possibility of faithless electors is very real. These are members of the Electoral College who vote for a candidate that their electoral district did not vote for. Even worse, there is nothing to truly stop faithless electors. Only 29 states have legislation that penalize faithless electors, but the other 21 states have no laws stopping the disruption of democracy. Although in the history of the United States, 99% of electors have voted according to their electoral district’s majority, the fact that such a situation is even possible should be compelling to abolish the Electoral College.

Argument: The Electoral College should Stay

The Electoral College not outdated; its unique style and rules ensure a more accurate representation of our democracy than what the popular vote ever could.

The practice of the Electoral College is not to steal away the idea of a majority vote. It was designed so that it’s extremely unlikely a candidate will win the popular vote but not the Electoral College, and vice versa. The election of 2016 is only the fifth time out of 57 elections in which the winner lost the popular vote, so the system’s overall goal is still accomplished.

The College requires that the candidate's support come from all across the nation, not just in one concentrated area. Although winning the 12 largest states guarantees the presidency, those 12 states are spread all around the nation, with varying cultures, styles and opinions. The Electoral College considers geography as well as population. Under the popular vote, a candidate could become president by winning only coastal states, and not states in the center of the nation. Although these two populations may be equivalent, winning only due to coastal states does not represent all Americans; in this scenario president could act in the interest of only some parts of the nation, not a varied population. This is why the popular vote does not represent the American people as well as the College.

Additionally, the Electoral College protects the influence of minority voters, groups that may be prominent, but do not have the complete majority. In the popular vote system, these groups would be marginalized and their opinions and ideals would not have an effect in the election. However, the Electoral College protects minority votes by ensuring a system where even smaller groups can have a larger impact on the election.

The Electoral College is not perfect. It has flaws, but it protects the diversity of America by balancing the densely populated areas of the country with the less dense areas, considering location as well as population.

What does Biotech think of the Electoral College?

A survey was sent out to Biotech’s students, posing the question “Should the Electoral College be abolished and replaced with a popular vote?” as well as an optional text box question asking to support that choice. 76 people, almost one-fourth of Biotech’s student population, responded.

The results were dead even. 38 people voted to keep the Electoral College, and 38 voted to abolish it. Many people also left detailed responses regarding their vote, fiercely supporting either side.

Here’s one answer for keeping the College: “The Electoral College preserves federalism, encourages candidates to build national coalitions, and grants definitive electoral outcomes. It requires a presidential candidate to win simultaneous elections across 50 states and the District of Columbia. If we let the popular vote choose, then heavily densely populated urban areas would be best represented, and these areas tend to almost have a majority of Democrats. If the popular vote won we would always have a Democratic president and not every American would have an equal voice.”

An answer against the Electoral College: “Our President should be a representative of the people of the United States.  Therefore, the President should be whoever the majority of people in the US support.  A popular vote is the only fair way to determine what portion of the United States supports any given candidate.  In addition, the Electoral College system makes voting unfair for individuals.  Because some states have more power than others in the electoral college system, not everyone's vote is equal.  A voter in Arizona, for instance, has almost more influence in the outcome of an election than a voter in Kentucky would due to the different amount of electoral votes allotted to each state.”

The 50 open-ended responses show the students’ interest on the topic of the Electoral College and the intense debate about its existence. Even in a high school, opinions are split right down the middle.

 


 

Wednesday
Mar082017

Ricky Pati: 2017 Caring Award Winner

BTHS proudly names Ricky Pati as its recipient of the 2017 Monmouth County Guidance Director Association's Caring Award!

Ricky, along with his parents, Ms. Krauter and Mr. Meehan will attend the Caring Award Ceremony on March 16 where he will be presented with the award and a video highlighting his amazing efforts to promote sustainability will be shown:

 

Tuesday
Feb282017

Biotech’s Take on Music

By: A.J. Fezza

Biotechnology High School is renowned for its rigorous biology-focused course sequence. However, the arts are a significant interest as well in the lives of many students here, particularly music. The entire school was polled via email about numerous questions regarding favorite genres of music, favorite songs, and opinions about music in general, with 104 responding. The responses were as of February 6-7, 2017:

Why do you enjoy music?

“As someone who has grown up with constant exposure to different types of instruments and artists, I can say that music is one of my creative and emotional outlets. I never leave my home without earbuds and I’m just in a lighter mood when I play guitar or another instrument for awhile. The healing power that music holds never ceases to amaze me.”

-Sophomore

“You kind of lose yourself and it’s a way to emulate whatever you feel in a way that can't necessarily be described in simple words. Plus, I love when a certain song is playing during something really momentous and you go back and listen to it and reminisce. Also, it reflects culture, in terms of both current American culture and whatever culture music you listen to.”

-Sophomore

“This is one hundred percent sappy metaphor.  Read at your own risk. Music is for expressing what English can't put into words. The fact that songs can include lyrics is entirely irrelevant here. There are precisely two things that I believe in as a given without any proof.  One is souls.  When I hear music, just for a split second, there is a moment when my soul is free.  It sounds stupid, yes.  If you knew who I was, you'd probably laugh, as I seem like a cynic 99% of the time.  But still… When you hear a song, your song (might not be composed by, performed by, or written for you, but it's still yours), there's this moment of absolute bliss.  The stars have NOT aligned, but rather you can feel them turning and that's okay and everything's right with the universe.  You are connected.  You are a part of such a huge, huge whole.  A little gear spinning in a watch.  A micronutrient in an organism.  You're FLYING. Then, of course, the song ends, and you are shocked back to Earth with the painful, startling realization that you are naught but yourself.  And it hurts like crazy.  Homesickness, I guess.  It makes your soul ache.  Still, you were, for a moment, part of the music in the same way the music was a part of you. That moment of bliss is why I enjoy music.  Plus, I suppose there's something to be said for the fact that I was practically raised to love music.  Everyone in my family did something.  I got hooked on piano when I was 7 and singing (terribly) since who knows when.  Oh, and I do love me some Disney.”

-Freshman

“An escape from the struggles of reality, and a glimpse, though ephemeral, into a fantasy of bliss and serenity”

-Senior

“Music has the ability to make someone emotional in less than three minutes and it also brings people together and I think that's really beautiful.”

-Sophomore

“It gives me a release from school and the stress associated with school and life in general. It brings me to a new world where I can just forget.”

-Sophomore

“I enjoy both listening and playing music. I like listening to it because of its meaning or melody. It can either calm me down or pump me up. It generally awesome in general.”

-Sophomore

“Sometimes when words fail, music fills the void and expresses what cannot be said.”

-Senior

“It helps me focus, encompasses the whole emotional spectrum, and can be simple yet complex at the same time.”

-Sophomore

However, there were conflicting views about the course that music nowadays has taken:

Any other opinions that you would like to add about music or the music industry?

“I’m kind of sad that a lot of today's music is about drugs or sex or wealth; it doesn't feel as raw as it used to be. Of course those songs are still really good but I wish it weren't so taken over by those things. I also wish it weren't so hard for people to put out their own music through recording studios and stuff; it's like you a) have to be at the right place at the right time or b) have to have a certain type of persona. There's so much talent that I feel like big companies are missing.”

-Sophomore

“1. We need more Owl City in our lives.

2. Music is amazing.

3. We should listen to songs because we want to listen to the songs, not because the creator is some celebrity that we think is popular.

4. All types of music should be appreciated. Doesn't matter whether you like it or not, we should accept it.

5. Some parodies are ten times better than the actual song.

6. Rap completely counts as music.

7. Poetry is simply music that hasn't had time to grow a tune yet.”

-Freshman

“I'd probably like pop music more if I didn't have to listen to Z100 for 3 hours a day. Listening to the same 15 songs over and over has a way of making you sick.”

-Junior

“Honestly, some people are so talented, but they feel that they have to do crazy things to be noticed, when really, their talent could take them really far.”

-Freshman

“Not necessarily in Biotech, but people need to chill about certain genres of music like KPop. Since it's in a different language some people automatically thinks it's "lame" but it's just music in another language.”

-Freshman

Students were also polled on their favorite artists, as well as their favorite songs of all time. Here are some interesting results:

Favorite Artist:

Drake (3)

Imagine Dragons (2)

The Lumineers (2)

Coldplay (2)

Chris Brown (2)

Red Hot Chili Peppers (2)

Maroon 5 (2)

Childish Gambino  (1)

Panic! At the Disco  (1)

Favorite Song:

“Where is my Mind” by the Pixies

“Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers

“Take Me to Church by Hozier

“I Can’t Help Falling in Love” (by Elvis Presley)

“Hypnotize” by Notorious B.I.G.

“Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin

“Lay Me Down” by Sam Smith

“This Old Heart of Mine” by the Isley Brothers

“At Last” by Etta James

“No Role Modelz” by J Cole

Lastly, students were asked several questions about their favorite genres of music as well as their favorite trending songs:

All in all, it can be concluded Biotechnology High School students have diverse and passionate opinions about music and the music industry.

Sunday
Feb192017

Hidden Figures and Women in STEM

By: Lina Szenkiel

“On any given day, I analyze the binomial levels air displacement, friction and velocity and compute over ten thousand calculations by cosine, square root and lately analytic geometry by hand. So yes, they let women do some things at NASA, and it's not because we wear skirts. It's because we wear glasses.”

-Katherine Johnson, Hidden Figures


Although history has systematically overlooked the accomplishments of women and minority groups, one movie has finally pulled through in favor of the underdogs.  Hidden Figures, directed by Theodore Melfi and based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly, is the story of three pioneering Black women working for NASA during the Cold War era.  Working as mathematicians, engineers, and physicists, they play an integral role in getting John Glenn into orbit around the Earth, despite facing the obstacles of racism and sexism.  
This unearthing of previously unknown contributors, or “hidden figures”, is nothing new.  The contributions of members of minority groups and women have systematically been overwritten by history books, especially in the scientific community.  Rosalind Franklin, for example, was a scientist instrumental in the discovery of the structure of DNA.  Although she came to the conclusion that DNA was a double helix on her own, it was Watson and Crick who went on write a paper and win the Nobel Prize without a mention of her name.  Another example, Vivien Thomas, pioneered the surgical procedure for repairing Tetralogy of Fallot, also known as blue baby syndrome.  A Black surgical technician, his immense contributions went unmentioned when his mentor, Dr. Alfred Blalock, performed the first ever cardiac surgery to repair a baby’s heart.  Thomas’ contributions, however, were brought into the limelight in the 2004 film, Something the Lord Made, when audiences everywhere learned the true story behind the first heart surgery.  Hidden Figures does precisely the same for Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan.
Despite the outstanding achievements and contributions of these scientists, their names are rarely heard when discussing NASA’s campaigns.  Katherine Johnson, the main character of the film, played an enormous role in computing and creating the math necessary to send astronauts into space.  Her math was considered so reliable that John Glenn himself asked her to double check a computer’s calculations regarding his launch before his flight.  In 2015, Johnson was even presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama.  Dorothy Vaughan started out as a mathematics teacher, but soon enough became the first female, Black supervisor at NASA as the head of the West Area Computers, a group of African American women who did complex calculations by hand.  When the group was disbanded after the implementation of digital computers, Vaughan taught herself FORTRAN.  By teaching her coworkers programming language, she effectively molded them into prime candidates for newly opening positions in digital computing.  She was considered one of the most brilliant minds at NASA at the time.  Mary Jackson was one of the women in the original West Area Computers.  Eventually she was employed in helping with the Supersonic Pressure Tunnel, which tested the effects of high pressure on NASA prototypes.  After displaying her high aptitude in engineering, she was encouraged by her employer to pursue a degree in the field.  After a petition to allow her to attend all-white engineering classes at the local high school, Jackson went on to become NASA’s first female, Black engineer.
Hidden Figures has not only told the stories of these talented women, but has also inspired the many girls who themselves want to become great scientists.  In a media seriously lacking female minority role models, Hidden Figures shows young girls the power of women in STEM careers.  Although males and females score equally in math and science standardized testing, only 29% of the science and engineering workforce is female.  This number drops even lower for minority women, as less than one in ten employed scientists and engineers in the US are of the group.  For this reason, it is incredibly important that young girls of color have positive role models from whom they can draw inspiration.  Hidden Figures not only creates these role models, but does so in a film saturated with all the history, music, and vibrancy of the 1960s.  It is a movie that every little girl with a proclivity for math or science should see.



Sunday
Feb122017

RAK Week

RAK Week, which will be observed Feb. 12-18, 2017, is an annual opportunity to unite through kindness. Formally recognized in 1995, this seven-day celebration demonstrates that kindness is contagious. It all starts with one act – one smile, one coffee for a stranger, one favor for a friend. It’s an opportunity for participants to leave the world better than they found it and inspire others to do the same. Since inception, RAK estimates that millions of celebrities, businesses, schools, and partners have participated in these weeklong celebrations.

Thanks to participation and support from over 130,000 contributors, Airbnb, AT&T, Ellen, Disney, GoPro, McDonald’s, MLB, Red Bull, Sesame Street, Southwest, Whole Foods Market, YouTube and other corporate partners, RAK Week 2016 trended No. 1 on Twitter with more than 1 billion impressions last year. RAK has a following of more than 1million kind fans on Facebook who are anticipated to participate in #RAKWeek2017 efforts.

WHAT: 17th Annual Random Acts of Kindness Week

WHEN: Sunday, Feb. 12, – Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017, with National Random Acts of Kindness Day designated as Feb. 17, 2017, in the United States

WHERE: Random Acts of Kindness Week is observed worldwide.

HOW: Commit to participating in 2017 RAK Week by signing up at www.randomactsof.us and either add a challenge to the Kindness Generator or pledge to take part in a kindness challenge established by another person, educator or organization. Use #RAKWeek2017 on social networks to spread the word.

Also, be sure to check out Students of Service's RAK Week Page for updates on Biotech's RAK Week!