Monthly Archives: October 2015

The Standards of Bad Thinking (Heath Padgett)

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When students apply for college, arguably the most important aspect of one’s application is an ACT or SAT score. Does success on these tests really indicate good thinking and likely future success? Unfortunately, I think the answer is no.

The objective section of these tests are seriously flawed. Many of the answers are directly given to the student within the test while others are relatively common knowledge. Furthermore, students who take higher math classes such as calculus are essentially hurting their chances of success since such concepts do not even appear on any of the tests. The lack of higher level math gives lower level math students the advantage because their math (geometry, algebra, statistics) actually appears within the test.

The objective section is not the only problem. The essay section is essentially useless. It asks students for an opinion-based essay and then provides a very small amount of time to compose it. The test even announces that graders will not particularly care about grammar or spelling. In my opinion, this essay only reveals good procrastinators since it awards the skill of writing a mediocre essay in a short amount of time. However, a truly gifted writer will take his time to carefully craft and develop a well-written essay, which is nearly impossible within the given time constraints.

Finally, I do not believe that standardized tests award good thinkers. Albert Einstein, arguably the greatest thinker to have ever lived, once said, “It is not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Here Einstein is essentially saying that a great thinker is not the person who can speedily whip out quick and easy solutions. To be a great thinker and to solve a truly difficult problem a person must take his time, think through the problem at hand, and then come to a conclusion.

All this to say, a slow and steady approach to thinking goes much further in life than a standardized test score. So let’s stop fretting over a couple points when we have our whole lives ahead of us. Take your time. Stick with it. Tenacity and grit are going to be far more valuable than any test score.

Let Your Light Shine (DeAnna Lockett)

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“We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” This quote by Marianne Williamson, a New York Times bestselling author, emphasizes that the goal of every person should be to let the light within them shine by pursuing their passion while provoking others to pursue theirs. This is not prideful; rather, it is glorifying to God and encouraging to others.

Sometimes Christians are perceived as good, but mediocre. While goodness is a measure of our moral character, it is not enough to fulfill God’s plan for our lives. This plan is not simply all about our moral qualities; it is also about our calling. God is actively interested and concerned with every aspect of our lives.

As Williamson stated, people around us should be able to see the light of God within us. However, that does not mean that while we are displaying our talents that we have to dim our light with false humility just to make others feel comfortable. This will only make us feel smaller and leave us without the confidence that is necessary to carry out God’s plan for our lives. As Christians we are called to goodness and the pursuit of excellence.

-DeAnna Lockett, Class of 2017

Farm School (Clay Smith)

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This past summer I discovered a problem: I had no money. No money meant no gas for my truck. No gas meant I would be stuck at home for the foreseeable future. Lucky for me, I stumbled across a job. I was offered a job cleaning stalls at the farm where my sister boards her horse. I readily took the offer, but little did I know how much this simple job would teach me about hard work.

Working on a farm is definitely not the prettiest job. Rain or shine, you have to be there every morning when the sun comes up. Most days are stifling hot and humid, so by the end of the day sweat has drenched every piece of clothing on your body. Plus, the dust and mud cake your face and cover every inch of visible skin. On top of this, some days bring rain, some bring broken equipment, and others bring horses trying to run away. Every day has its own challenges, so you have to be prepared for whatever happens.

Farm work is hard. However, it taught me to appreciate the people who work that hard their entire lives. It has also taught me the value of money. As a younger kid, I always relied on my parents for everything; but now that I have to work for my own money, I have learned to take pride in earning it and to be more conservative about how I spend it. My job has taught me about the real world, common sense, and so many other things that just cannot be taught in schools.

By Clay Smith, Class of 2016

History That Inspires

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At times, high school can feel endless. It seems as if all the hard work we put it will never amount to anything. There are days when we all feel one step away from giving up completely. What keeps us holding on? The answer is different for everyone. For some, it is their hobbies; for others, it may be the people they love. For me, it is stories. There is something inspiring about hearing about other people’s victories. My grandfather’s story about Waldamur Andreason is one of my favorites.

Lisa Andreasen

Lisa Andreasen outside the Waldamur farm in Nebraska

Waldamur Andreasen is my great-great grandfather. He grew up in Stege, Denmark with a loving family, but that all changed when his mother passed away. It was like a fairy tale. In a matter of months, his father had been remarried to a vicious woman. Waldamur knew his new stepmother had no warm feelings for him, but he could not have guessed the degree to which this woman would alter his life. 

That day Waldamur had been to town on an errand. When he returned home, he found his father and stepmother waiting for him in their tidy living room. His father announced that Waldamur would be moving to America with their neighbors the Jacobsens. The young boy was horrified. He was only sixteen; how could he be expected to make a life for himself alone in another country? He started to plead with his fat, but was stopped by his stern response, “It has already been decided, son. You leave in the morning.” When he saw his stepmother’s smug smile, Waldamur knew that he had been defeated.

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Waldamur Andreasen’s original immigration papers

A month later, Waldamur arrived in New York City with the Jacobsen family. The plan was for him to remain in the city while the Jacobsens would be traveling to Nebraska to start a family farm. The idea of being on his own had ceased to frighten Waldamur, but now he was afraid of something else–losing Lisa Jacobsen.

During the trip, the two had developed strong feelings for one another; so much so that Waldamurhad promised to marry Lisa one day. Now, that seemed unlikely, if not impossible. But just before the family left, Waldamur once again promised to find Lisa as soon as he made enough money for a farm.

After a year of struggling to survive in the big city, Waldamur went to Nebraska. There he was able to acquire a farm and fulfill his promise to Lisa. But their troubles were not yet over. Their lives continued to be filled with struggle and hardship. But they persevered, and because of their hard work the Andreasen family would thrive for many generations after them.

In Philippians 3:14 Paul writes, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Stories like Waldamur’s inspire me to follow Paul’s example. As far as I know, Waldamur was not a Christian, but his story of hope still points me back to Christ and inspires me to press on. 

How much do you know about past generations in your family? Who are the people responsible for bringing you to your current place in life? Consider looking it up. The stories you uncover may be just what you need to keep going. 

Minutes Matter: The Importance of Atrium Chapel

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Throughout my years in the Upper School, a lot has changed. I have seen teachers come and go. I have experienced what it was like to be the youngest and now the oldest among all grades. I have gone from modular classrooms to a beautifully designed, spacious building. Before the move to our current building, one tradition I always loved was the monthly Upper School chapel.

These days the logistics of over a hundred students crossing Cahaba Valley Trace has made having our traditional chapels more difficult. However, we now have what are called “atrium chapels.” As the name suggests, these occur in the atrium. They are held every Wednesday at the very beginning of tutorial and consist of a prayer, song of worship, reading from Scripture, or brief message of encouragement. But not everyone sees the value in this.

Because these chapels are very short compared to what we have done in the past, many wonder if it is even worth having them. Are we simply wasting study time just to stand in the atrium for a few minutes to sing a song?

Adapting to change over the years has allowed me to realize what is truly important in life. My answer to the question concerning atrium chapels would be this: While the time is brief, the fruit can still be abundant. If it is our aim to cultivate a love for truth, beauty, and goodness to flourish, how can we not spend time listening to the Word of our creator?

Hebrews 10:24-25 states, “Let us consider how to stir one another to love and good works not neglecting to meet together…” This verse should push us to take a step back and realize why we are having these chapels. They are an act of praise, worship, and admiration of our King. As a school with a foundation of faith, we must realize the responsibility we have to cultivate an environment where our faith can thrive.

The mere fact that these chapels are only a few minutes should not take away from their significance. 2 Peter 3:8 states,”But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” The potential issue of time that we see is not a concern to the Lord. His concern is for our hearts, and by spending time in prayer and worship, we are able to remember what is truly important.

My hope is that these chapels will no longer be seen as a waste of time. My prayer is that they would allow us to be known as a school that enjoys praising God, even if just for a few minutes.

-Olivia Godfrey (Class of 2016)

Achievement Recognition: Balancing Athletics and Academics

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National Honors Society (NHS) Announcement Day: Membership in NHS is a great achievement that can help in getting scholarships for college. Most schools celebrate when their students achieve this level of accomplishment. They hold ceremonies where they formally announce the new members and acknowledge all of their hard work.

The Westminster Athletic Banquet: Lettering in high school athletics is also an important achievement. Each year Westminster holds a dinner and ceremony to celebrate all athletes from our school. Athletes are treated with a celebration dinner and decorated with awards throughout the night for their athletic performance.

Both of these events are designed to acknowledge student achievement, but judging by the scale of each, one would think the Westminster community valued athletics far more than academics.

The sports banquet of 2015 was an enormous celebration, and the athletes were praised late into the night. The announcement of the 2015 National Honor Society members, however, took place during tutorial. Students were hustled outside, the members were announced, and then everyone went back to their busy lives. Parents and grandparents who came expecting to see their child honored instead left disappointed.

I am not trying to demean athletics or say that it is not important enough to have a banquet, because it is. However, whereas some students put in hours of work in practicing for their sport, some put in hours of work writing papers and studying for tests. The athletes deserve to have a ceremony to celebrate their achievements throughout the year, but so do high-achieving students. Academics achievements deserve more than a simple, ten-minute gathering behind the school.

Surely there is a way to honor each of these important aspects of school culture in a more balanced fashion.

Sarah McDaniel (Class of 2017)