Posts Tagged ‘october 2012’

Life in Italy Column 2: Ciao from Mestre

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Alex Besser ’13

Ciao from Mestre, Italy. I have been living here, on the northeast Italian coast, for two weeks now. This year, I am attending Liceo Stefanini, the local public high school.

The Italian education system is a whole different world from MKA. Liceo is the name for Italian high schools for students who want to go to university. Most are specialized for what subjects students are interested in. “Liguistico” is for students interested in language, “Tecnologico” for technology, ‘Scientifico,’ which my school is, for science, while “Classico” is a general mix of everything. Liceo is five years long, with school from 8 AM to 12 AM, Monday through Saturday.

Every day, I, like most students here, bike to school. There is always a mass of students standing in front of the school entrance, a pale, grey cloud of smoke floating around their heads, since about 90% of students here smoke. Depending on the day, I’ll either attempt to talk to classmates in my broken Italian or, if I’m feeling a bit “stanco,” I can go to the school vending machine, which sells espressos for the equivalent of one dollar.

Classes are about the same size as at MKA, but students stay in the same room all day and the teachers switch. My classes consist of computer programming, physics, chemistry, math, history, Italian, English, philosophy, and religion. Each day we have four hour-long classes, with a ten-minute cigarette break in the middle of the day. English class is a bit of a refreshing break for me, this year we are reading excerpts from Frankenstein and Jane Eyre and learning about American history. There is one challenge, though: our exercise book is for British English. I recently got one problem wrong, when, for the statement, “You ____________ be playing near the cooker,” I wrote “should not” instead of “oughtn’t.” I still haven’t found out what exactly a cooker is.

After school, students bike to local cafés, bars, or the nearby piazza for a spritz, a popular Venetian drink, or return home for a nice, hot lunch of some kind of pasta.

Although it’s definitely different, I think the Italian school system has got its perks and makes for a nice environment for all students.

Are the Presidential Candidates Taking Advantage of the Opportunity of Debate?

Friday, October 26th, 2012

by Alexa Bieler

The first presidential debates have ended, and each candidate was looking to leave a positive mark. But are the debates, an outgrowth of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates (for any juniors reading this), as important as we make them out to be? Only twice since 1967 has the candidate who won the debates also won the presidency. Are the debates completely obsolete? No.

It has been a tough road for Republican candidate Mitt Romney. It is the sad truth for the party and the brunt of pundit jokes that Republicans aren’t in love with Romney. It was a hard road through the primaries, battling the effervescent Michelle Bachman and presidential-looking Rick Perry; now he faces the incumbent President, and things have not been going well. Romney’s campaign has gained the reputation of being gaff-prone, having rebooted a few times since the official confirming of the nomination in Tampa, Florida. The most recent slip-up, a video released by the Mother Jones website, was secretly recorded at a Romney fundraiser. The ill-fated video infamously shows Romney telling donors that they, the Republican Party, will not receive votes from the entitled 47% of the country—dependent individuals who believe they are victims, as Romney claims. The video went viral on Monday, September 17th, and has been an extremely popular topic of discussion since.

Romney is looking to revamp his public image during these debates. During the primaries he was good at sparring with the likes of Rick Santorum and John McCain, but he came off as insincere. The American people see Romney as a member of the 1%. If he wants to utilize the debates to change his image, he has to appeal to the lower/middle class. These debates are his last chance, on a big world stage, to show the American people that he isn’t detached from the common folk, although the aforementioned video definitely made that hard.

The results of the first debate are currently rocky: though neither candidate was on his A game, Romney is largely believed to have “won” the debate, since he came off as more confident than Obama. He also attempted to appeal to the majority of Americans with a reference to Sesame Street. Though this may have come off as desperate and awkward to many people, for some, it worked.

Mr. Obama, the incumbent, is currently leading in the polls, a surprise for a President whose economy is in the hopper. Although Obama has not yet alienated our closest European ally, England, there have been other issues. On the 11th anniversary of September 11th, the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was attacked, killing four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. In the week that followed, speculation was rampant but hard facts scarce.  Initially, the White House believed the attack was in response to the “Innocence of Muslims” video on YouTube. As days passed, however, it became clear that the attack was a pre-planned terrorist strike. The shifting opinion has caused many Republicans to accuse the President of a cover-up, pointing to a weak take on foreign policy.

With this in mind, we turn to the debates.   The challenge of an incumbent in an election year is to defend his record while pointing to the future.   Obama had to deflect Romney’s attacks deftly and firmly if he were to come out ahead in this debate.  Romney has no presidential record to defend, but this doesn’t make his job any easier.  With his history at Bain, his rejection of the auto industry bailout and his sharp criticism of the 47%, he has an uphill battle to prove to the American people that he is sincere when he says he wants to help all Americans.

This is your future being debated. It is no doubt that suspicion has been cast on Obama with these recent accusations, and because he is the incumbent, since he didn’t exactly crush Romney, the Republicans count it as a victory.

Obama must keep his calm and make himself as trustworthy as possible in the next few weeks, or else the pundits will be all over him. •