In Defense of Happy Birthday, and Other Musings- Letter From the Editor: June

Cassidy Polga, Editor-in-Chief

Hello, all,

It has been awhile since I last wrote those words, due in part to the onslaught of AP exams and final projects-who knew that teachers actually do milk every last drop of time in students’ final weeks?-which blew in with May, and due also in part to the fact that I have been lacking in inspiration. You see, for the past couple of years I have attempted, when possible, to not create unless I felt that there was something special in what I had to say. I do not believe that my work must pass an arbitrary measure of “importance;” but rather that I want to connect to what I write, for what is felt deeply can never be false.

My personal lack of inspiration has not affected the output of the rest of the staff, who have gone above and beyond in the past months in their commitment to investigating and reporting the truth in our school community. Recently, we have published fair, balanced articles examining both the departure of a teacher and the resignation of the former Student Body President. These events, particularly Mr. Parsons’ departure, inarguably affect many students and faculty members, and I am proud of the Magnet staff for their dedication in presenting all sides of a story without devolving into rumor.

Contributing writer Varona Maysonet-Ayala garnered quite a lot of well-deserved praise for her editorial “I Want to Die: Mental Illness In High School,” and we were thrilled to be able to showcase her voice, which spoke to issues that affect many of the people I care about, as well as a significant percentage of the global population. Varona’s  ability to bare a part of her soul in the hopes of bettering this community for herself and others are at the core of what is so important about journalism: caring. To be a journalist requires objectivity, a desire to uncover the truth(and no small amount of daily caffeine) of course, but perhaps, more simply, to be a journalist requires the ability to see our fellow humans and say I see you. I am thankful to Varona for letting others see her, and I encourage any community member with their own unexpressed thoughts to submit an article to The Magnet. We are your voice.

The ability to let others know you care is often intentionally diminished by jaded, sick-of-this-place high schoolers. I understand that, and I fight the urge too, the urge to brush off the meaning of grades, to scoff at Spirit Weeks, to not tell someone how much they mean to me. I have touched on this topic before, in an editorial about the general apathy I sense from the student body, and as I said then, I urge anyone who takes issue with certain elements of our school to write to The Magnet. But this is my space, and I’ve found inspiration.

Listening to the speeches of the Student Council candidates last week, I was struck by the fact that all but one student vowed to abolish the singing of the Birthday Song in morning assembly. Obviously, the students believed that by making this promise, they had a better chance of winning. I have sung Happy Birthday in assembly over a thousand times (literally)since I was a sixth grader, and I have watched as our  enthusiasm has steadily decreased over the years. At this point, we often sound more like a funeral march than a celebration.

And yet. I do not know one person in this school who doesn’t smile a little when 300-plus people sing their name. Friends still make a make a point to announce each other’s birthdays. My own father decided to project my baby photos fifteen feet high in front of the school. In some ways, our tradition of singing Happy Birthday symbolizes what MacDuffie is at its best: a community that cares, and is not afraid to show it. I have written about this before as well, about the value inherent in some of our most ridiculous traditions. And I know that some will brush me off as a seven-year senior foolishly clinging to “the good old days” of One Ames Hill Drive, Springfield. Maybe I am. But as long as I care about MacDuffie, I will want the community to continue caring about each other. It can be difficult and uncomfortable to break from the pack, and teenagers are particularly self-conscious. But the options which open up once you do are worth it. If the singing of Happy Birthday continues down the path it has been, then I agree it should be done away with. But the maybe-foolish, probably sentimental, human part of me that cares too much says that we have a lot to gain from singing, if we just let go and do it.

This is not quite my final Letter; we are preparing one last special print issue of The Magnet to be released on Magnolia Day. So don’t miss me yet. I will also announce in the print issue the incoming Editors for the 2017-2018 academic year, whom I know will take our paper to as yet unforeseen heights.

For now, all readers should check out the two interesting examinations of our graduation dress code by my fellow editors, as well as the newest indispensable tidbits from our anonymous advice columnist, Creampuff (whose identity will also be announced on Magnolia Day.) In other news of interest, it is currently Pride Month, which means that I am contractually obligated to paint my face the bisexual flag colors and boast about how great I am every day. In all seriousness, the LGBT community is one of my most treasured, and in these uncertain times, it is always important to remember what our forebears fought for and what we still need to accomplish. In every community that matter to us as humans, we celebrate the families which we create, we shout for those who cannot, and we look towards a bigger, brighter future.

In short, we care.