By Andrew Wong (V)
The Wall Street Bets Reddit Community, affectionately referred to as r/WallStreetBets, proudly describes itself as “like 4Chan found a Bloomberg Terminal.” So-called YOLO (“You Only Live Once”) trades are the order of the day on this subreddit, with users dumping thousands of dollars into high-risk, high-volatility trades that essentially treat the stock market like a massive casino. Upon visiting the board for the first time, users are greeted with posts on dozens of these potential YOLO trades that have the potential to either make you a millionaire, or absolutely rob you––usually the latter. Yet even as these YOLO trades go bust, many of the Redditors take pride in their massive losses, posting pictures of hundreds of thousands of dollars lost on high-risk options and trades.
However, when these trades do go right, one can become a millionaire practically overnight. This was the case with Gamestop (GME), a YOLO trade started by a user u/DeepF——Value, a 34-year-old financial educator from Massachusetts named Keith Gill, who mostly posts cat memes on Twitter and Reddit. Gill originally placed $54,000 on GME in September of 2020, when GME traded at roughly $8.50 a share. The bet soon gained momentum on r/WallStreetBets when Gill posted an update on January 11, 2021. Users started buying the stock en masse, sending the price to about $65 a share by January 22.
Wall Street hedge funds soon took notice of this sudden uptick in GME’s stock price, and immediately saw an opportunity to make some quick money. GME’s stock price was indeed heavily overvalued: the company itself was not expected to turn a profit until 2024, and with the COVID-19 pandemic, it was in severe financial distress. Expecting the stock to nosedive owing to Gamestop’s precarious financial situation and poor fundamentals, investors short sold the stock. By January 22, 140% of GME’s public float had been shorted, making it the most shorted stock on the market.
Seeing how GME had been extremely shorted by Wall Street hedge funds, members of r/WallStreetBets soon found themselves with a golden opportunity. If they could get users on the board to buy more shares of GME (which would increase the stock price), hedge funds would have to buy back the stock to cover, which would further increase the stock price and cause a short squeeze, thus sending the stock price soaring.
On January 25, the plan was put into motion. Swathes of users bought GME (nearly 175 million shares were traded that day), pledging to send “Gamestop to the Moon!” The internet soon took notice and “GME to the Moon” was trending on multiple social media platforms that day. Influencers hoping to make a quick buck posted screenshots of their positions and asked their followers to buy into the stock. Millennial college students looking to pay off their college debts hopped on the trend, dumping their stimulus checks and whatever savings they could scrape together into GME. Gen-Zers, many of whom had never even touched the stock market before, started accounts on free trading platforms such as Robinhood to hop on the GME rocket and become part of history. Never before in stock market history had so many people been united together in a singular goal to buy a stock.
This sudden influx of people buying GME caused the stock’s price to rise sharply, as expected. A gamma squeeze was also triggered by traders scrambling to buy options in order to hedge their short positions and protect themselves from further risk, which further increased the stock price. By the time the market closed on January 26, GME had risen 92.71% to a price of $147.98 per share. During after-hours trading, Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter and posted a link to the r/WallStreetBets subreddit with the caption “Gamestonk!”, sending the price of the stock to $200. By the time the market closed the next day on the 27, GME was trading at $483 a share, an increase of almost 750% from its stock price just a week prior, and an increase of more than 1000% for the entire year.
In the span of two days, Redditors and YOLO investors who had placed thousands of dollars into GME found themselves with millions of dollars in newly acquired wealth. Meanwhile, hedge funds who had dumped billions of dollars into short positions on GME found themselves losing their entire position to the short squeeze. Morgan Stanley reported that it had seen some of the largest de-grossing actions in nearly 10 years, meaning hedge funds worked to cover their short positions and to sell stock in other companies in order to limit their volatility exposure as GME’s stock price took off. Other funds, who had bet big on the GME short, simply couldn’t cover their losses. Among the biggest of these losers would be Melvin Capital, a $12 billion hedge fund who had staked out a multibillion dollar short position on GME. In the wake of the short squeeze, Melvin found itself losing nearly 30% of its value on its failed GME short, necessitating a $2.75 billion buyout from Citadel and Point72 Asset Management in order to prevent the fund from going under.
As of the time of writing, GME is now trading at roughly $58, thanks to a combination of brokerages restricting trading of GME, short ladders by hedge funds in order to force a selloff, and a loss of interest from retail traders. Wall Street itself has been reminded that retail traders, ordinary people, are still very much a force on the market, and they too, have as much of a right and ability as do those working in multi-billion dollar hedge funds. This event, when a group of retail investors, redditors, millennials and Gen-Zers all came together and managed to upset Wall Street, will certainly go down as an event to remember, an event that will help to define the Millennial and Gen-Z generations.
By Andrew Wong (V)
Over the summer, like many of my friends at Pingry, I watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix, a documentary exposing the inner workings and dangers of social media and surveillance capitalism. Perhaps I was naïve at the time, but after watching the show, I still felt that social media was not a clear and present danger to our freedoms in this country. A negative social influence? Perhaps. Issues with user data and security? Certainly. But not a serious threat to society and civil rights.
However, in the wake of Capitol violence motivated by online actors, former President Donald Trump’s ban from every single social media platform on allegations of “incitement,” and thousands of other bans being handed out to conservative influencers, it is clear that the issue of social media needs to be addressed. Social media can be a force for good, helping to connect people from all over the world and allowing for immense information sharing that human history has never seen before. But on the flip side, it can also be used to facilitate illegal activities, share illicit material and content, curb free speech, or change the minds of millions with misinformation and propaganda. So how should social media be regulated in order to continue being a force for good, while also protecting our right to free speech and keeping unwanted actors out?
Presently, all social media in the United States is regulated under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. Section 230(c)1 grants social media companies legal immunity from whatever content is posted on their platforms, and makes it so that social media companies cannot be held liable for what is said and done by users, even if said actions are illegal. The second portion of the law, Section 230(c)2 provides immunity from civil liabilities for information service providers that remove or restrict content from their services they deem “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable”, as long as they act “in good faith” in this action. In essence, platforms cannot be held liable for violating the free speech of users by removing content.
However, while Section 230 has allowed social media companies to expand and flourish without fear of legal repercussions for moderating what is posted on their platforms, it’s also presented many moral questions. For example, should illicit material or content that inspires violence or terrorism be allowed to be harbored on social media platforms with no repercussions whatsoever? Or what about the flip side of the coin, in that we’ve essentially given so-called “Big Tech” a free hand to play judge, juror, and executioner when it comes to free speech in the twenty-first century public square?
How should Section 230 be changed to try and remedy these issues? Democrats and Republicans have proposed several solutions. Democrats, most notably President Joe Biden, have supported weakening Section 230(c)1 protections, having stated in a January 2020 interview with The New York Times that “[Facebook] is not merely an internet company. It is propagating falsehoods they know to be false”, and that the U.S. needed to “[set] standards” for what content is and is not allowed on social media. Republicans, led by Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO), have proposed legislation limiting Section 230(c)2 protections, clarifying what it means when a platform takes down content in “good faith”, and stripping away immunity for content takedowns, thus allowing users to sue companies over content moderation policies.
Ultimately, effective regulation must address issues regarding illicit content and free speech. Such regulation must establish that content promoting illicit activities (such as child abuse, human trafficking, terrorism, and cyber-stalking, among others), are illegal on the internet, just like it is in the real world, and platforms will have their immunity stripped if they promote these activites. However, such regulation must also have adequate protections on free speech. This could be accomplished through clarifying the “good faith” clause with specific language, or perhaps writing specific legislation that only allows platforms to take down content when it is blatantly illegal, rather than letting platforms take down content they don’t like to see.
Social media is the public square of the 21st century, and ultimately, everyone should be able to have access to this public square, in keeping with our values of free speech. It is in the interest of everyone that the internet remains a free and open space, but also a safe space where illegal actions are not allowed to persist. Effective and smart regulation, accomplished via updating Section 230, would be an easy way to create an open and safe environment on all social platforms.
By Andrew Wong (V)
On January 20, in a deserted Washington D.C. guarded by more than 25,000 National Guard soldiers, Joe Biden took the Oath of Office to become the 46th President of the United States.
President Biden takes the reins of the nation in an extremely tumultuous time. Never before in American history has the population been so polarized. According to Pew Research Center, both Democrats and Republicans now lean further to the political left and right, respectively, than at any other point in American history. The reasoning behind this shift may not even be grounded in changing ideals over policy, but rather, in hatred for the other side. A recent study conducted by a group of political scientists from Northwestern, NYU, Stanford, and Harvard which looked at political sectarianism in America concluded that a majority of Republican and Democrat voters today are united not by their love of their own party’s policy, but rather by a hatred of the opposition. As a result, both parties end up moving towards their political extremes as they seek to counter everything the other party stands for––a self-fulfilling prophecy that only widens the gap between Democrat and Republican.
Perhaps the best example of this great disunity in our nation comes in the form of the violence on Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021, when a group of right-wing extremists and anarchist agitators broke into the Capitol Building to try and stop the congressional certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. This tragedy shows us that American society faces two major issues:
- Americans are losing faith in the democratic system.
- Some Americans unfortunately believe that the outlets for them to express their grievances with the government have failed to the point where violence becomes acceptable
The loss of faith in our democratic system can be found directly in the fallout surrounding the 2020 election and the general anger towards a gridlocked Congress. Polls show that more than 74 percent of Republicans and over 42 percent of Independents believed Joe Biden was elected by illegitimate means: a dangerous proposition in a country built on the democratic process. The refusal of election authorities to even listen to this bloc of voters and seriously look into irregularities surrounding the election only exacerbated this situation and only served to assuage fears that something was afoot.
One can argue about what right these voters had to challenge the results of the election and the validity of their evidence, but nonetheless, the lack of an independent investigation into these election concerns, even if they were built upon shaky evidence, only further damaged voters’ faith in the democratic process. Such an investigation would not have been unusual. Keep in mind, after the 2016 Presidential Election, Democrats pursued a two-year-long investigation into “Russian collusion with the Trump campaign” under the Mueller probe, which was eventually shown to be built on its own mound of shoddy evidence. An independent investigation to debunk theories surrounding fraud in the 2020 election would have gone a long way in preventing what had happened at the Capitol. Even if the investigation were as fruitless and frivolous as the Mueller probe, it would have at least let the people know they were being listened to.
The second ingredient in creating the explosion at the Capitol was extreme distrust of the government. Americans are tired of seeing the constant gridlock of Congress and the inability of Republican and Democratic caucuses to even compromise on basic legislation. Perhaps the most glaring example of this incompetence and deadlock has been the general failure of Congress to pass meaningful coronavirus relief legislation, even after months of debate. When these two factors of mistrust in the electoral process and anger at the government were combined, it created a ticking time bomb.
Political scientists define pressure release valves in a democracy as means for the public to voice their discontent with the government. Such valves include elections for representatives, a media that values free speech, and civil disobedience and protest. However, with a sizable portion of the American electorate believing the election was rigged, in conjunction with a gridlocked Congress, and months-long COVID-related lockdowns brought down on the people by the government, many of the pressure release valves in American society failed. It was only a matter of time before all the pressure and anger over a questionable election, ineffective legislative branch, and crippling lockdowns exploded and ordinary citizens took matters into their own hands. Let me be clear: violence is inexcusable in all forms, and I wholly condemn the actions of these extremists at the Capitol. Nonetheless, history clearly shows us that when the government fails to fix the pressure release valves, shuts down opinions and ignores requests for change, people will resort to extreme means to make a point. We saw it last spring in Minneapolis and Portland in the context of racial unrest, and we saw it happen again on January 6.
In his inaugural address, President Biden promised to be a “President for all Americans” and “end the uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal.” As America picks up the pieces and looks towards the future, President Biden must accomplish two things if he wishes to unite this nation. One, he must win back Americans’ trust in the federal government and Congress. The second task is to fix the pressure release systems of the nation, and make it clear to citizens that their government can hear them, and cares about them. While there is no cut-and-dry method to accomplish this, certain tasks, such as passing stronger coronavirus relief bills and safely reopening the economy, would go a long way in helping heal a wounded nation. Biden’s ability to be a successful president is contingent upon him figuring out how to solve these two problems in a way that is beneficial for all Americans. If these problems are allowed to persist, they will only continue to strain the bonds between us.
By Andrew Wong (V)
In 1991, with the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, many American foreign policy scholars (most famously Harvard political scientist Francis Fukuyama) believed that the millennia of sociopolitical conflict between nation states that had defined human history were over, and that humanity had come to accept liberal democracy as the final form of government. Fukuyama argued in his book, The End of History and the Last Man, that from 1991 onward, history would be incredibly “boring,” as democracy spread around the world and human conflict would be reduced to little more than squabbles between democracies over trivial matters of trade and economics. Indeed, Fukuyama’s hypothesis held up for nearly a decade. According to Pew Research Center, democracies made up approximately 36% of nations in 1990. By the year 2000, 63% of nation states were democracies, and the number was only increasing as old authoritarian regimes crumbled and democracies came to replace them. Inter-state conflicts were, arguably, nowhere to be found. Indeed, with a new millennium upon us, it appeared that the era of great power conflict was over, and that freedom and liberal democracy would ultimately triumph over authoritarianism in every corner of the globe.
Fast forward two decades.
If there ever is to be an end of history as defined by Fukuyama, the events of the last twenty years prove it will not occur in the 21st century. The percentage of democracies around the world has shrunk from a high water mark of 64% in 2006 to around 50% today. Liberalism itself has struggled to adapt to the complexities of the times, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, as we see democratic nations struggle between balancing freedom and their citizens’ health while authoritarian states tout their success in combating the pandemic by completely suppressing their citizens’ basic freedoms.
Along with exposing major flaws within liberalism, COVID-19 has accelerated the start of a power competition between a liberal United States and illiberal Communist China. If there was any hope left for detenté between these two nations prior to the pandemic, COVID-19 has completely killed that off. The symptoms of this new conflict are all here: the end of a free Hong Kong, the U.S. government’s attempts at banning TikTok and other Chinese social media apps, the Chinese government’s encroachment upon the sovereignty of various Indo-Pacific nations, the beginnings of a 5G and AI technology arms race; the list goes on and on.
The recent release of the State Department’s policy planning paper, The Elements of The China Challenge, not only serves as additional confirmation that a new reality of a great power competition is upon us, but it also provides a framework for how America’s foreign policy should be modeled in the years to come if we wish to defend the global liberal status quo against a belligerent Chinese government. To that end, it identifies several objectives the United States must accomplish, namely:
- The United States must be prepared to maintain freedom and democracy at home and abroad amidst the challenges of the Twenty-first Century.
- The United States must cooperate with its allies in order to preserve the free, open, and rules-based international system that has guaranteed freedom, peace, national sovereignty, and human rights since the end of World War II.
- The United States must educate American citizens about the scope of the China challenge, while also training a new generation of American students capable of not only understanding Chinese language and culture, but also the languages and cultures of other friends or adversaries.
The reality of this new global paradigm for us Gen Z-ers is a sobering one. The chapter of world peace created by the triumph of liberalism in 1991, which endured throughout our childhoods, has been shattered by the COVID-19 pandemic and left liberalism bruised and battered. I believe a new chapter of history is beginning as you read this very article, and it is not one of peace, but of great conflict between the United States and Communist China.
Our childhoods are over. I don’t think there will be peace in this world until one side wins in this new Cold War. Rather, I believe that as the pandemic subsides, we now live in the shadow of the US-China conflict, which will come to define the 21st century forever.
The Founding Fathers coined the phrase “United We Stand, Divided We Fall”, and I believe their words could not be truer today. If we continue down this path of great division, be it Democrat vs Republican, Rich vs Poor, Old vs Young, divisions that have already tested liberalism to its very brink amidst the chaos of the pandemic, our nation will fall as the great empires of antiquity did. I feel that we must, for our sake, for our children’s sake, find a way to mend these divides that continue to rot the very foundations of America each and every day. Only then can we firmly defend liberal democracy and finally condemn authoritarianism to the scrap heap of history where it deservedly belongs.
If government of the people is truly humanity’s destiny, I think that the events that occur in the years to come will either make or break that truth. Let us endeavor to ensure that this belief is correct.
By Andrew Wong (V) By the time this article has been published, you will hopefully know who the next President of the United States is––either Joe Biden or Donald Trump. But does that mean months of incessant conflict will finally come to an end?
As America wakes up from this nightmare of an election and picks up the pieces, you, the reader, along with the rest of our nation, will now have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. Perhaps the candidate you rooted for did not win. Or maybe they did. You may be thrilled at what has occurred, or you might be getting ready for the impending apocalypse. Whatever happened with the presidential election, however, the task at hand is straightforward: we must begin the process of rebuilding the broken ties of a deeply divided nation.
Writing this in October, with less than three weeks to go before the general election, I don’t have that privilege of hindsight to see what will happen after the election. During these closing days, emotions are running high. There’s no doubt that America faces challenges it has never seen before. The global coronavirus pandemic, economic chaos, glaring racial injustice, and crime in our streets have all contributed to a general unease about what lies ahead. Many believe that the future of our republic rests in the outcome of this election, and many believe that, should things go awry, it could quite possibly mean the end of our storied history. A quick scan of recent headlines from media outlets only confirms our nation’s general anxiety over our future: “The Threat to Democracy” from CNN, “I Fear We Are Witnessing the End of American Democracy” from the New York Times, “Can American Democracy Be Saved?” from The Atlantic, and so forth.
While one may attribute these headlines to media sensationalism, the underlying tension and conflict that permeates our society right now cannot be understated. Republicans vs. Democrats, the rich vs. the working-class, urban vs. rural. Divisions are incredibly evident in our modern society. If we are to continue down this road, perhaps the Founding Fathers’ warning that “united we stand, divided we fall” will indeed come to fruition. So how do we stop this slow burn to the end?
In Federalist Paper No. 10, Founding Father James Madison writes of the dangerous yet fundamental nature of division, stating that “a zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government … an attachment to different leaders contending for pre-eminence and power … have divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them more disposed to vex … rather than to cooperate for their common good.” When the Founding Fathers first created our republic, they understood that division and factionalism would be a threat to our nation, but they had a solution.
In enshrining the civic virtue of civil discourse within our very own First Amendment with the right to free speech, the Founding Fathers intended for citizens and government to overcome such division through civil discussion and compromise. Yet, as shown by the chaos in our nation today, we’ve failed to live up to these ideals. We’ve thrown civil discussion out the window in exchange for glorified shouting matches, replaced the debate of ideas with insults, and instead of seeing those on the opposing side as fellow Americans, we treat them like they are our worst enemies. The symptoms of this are everywhere, be it in the First Presidential Debate, TV political panels, social media, or sometimes even within Pingry’s own community.
In spite of these tensions, I implore you, Dear Reader, to keep in mind the ideals of our republic and try to navigate the future after the election with some sense of civility. Rather than turning political debates into melees, as we all have been guilty of at some point, perhaps try to listen to the ideas of the opposition. Maybe change the news or the radio to a different source and listen for a bit. Attend a Pingry Politics Club meeting, and listen to your peers discuss various political topics in a safe environment. Or engage in some casual conversation with peers who have opposite views on certain issues and try to find common ground. Who knows? Maybe you will realize that your ideas were a bit flawed, or maybe come up with better counterarguments to the opposition by learning from them.
Such things cannot occur, however, if we continue to regard our opposition as personal adversaries. At the end of the day, we all are Americans. We all salute the same flag and enjoy a common set of freedoms and liberties. As we set about rebuilding a fractured nation, let’s push forth past our differences and halt America’s downward spiral into faction.
By Andrew Wong (V) As a tumultuous 2019-2020 school year came to an end this past June, and the COVID-19 pandemic stretched into yet another month, many members of the Pingry community were questioning if in-person learning would be possible in September. With teachers, administrators, and students desperately wanting to go back to school, Pingry Anywhere, the framework to try and facilitate school in the era of COVID-19, was created. The goal of the project was simple: get Pingry safely back in session this fall. However, it was less clear at first how this would be done. Head of School Mr. Levinson underscored the complexity of the task, summing up how Pingry Anywhere needed to “strategically [align] all dimensions of the School, from teaching and learning to technology to operations and facilities.” A leadership team, consisting of various teachers, administrators, and outside consultants, overseen by Mr. Levinson himself, was formed to manage this Herculean endeavor.
Throughout the summer, Pingry was transformed into a construction site, as facilities staff worked daily to install plexiglass safety barriers, set up massive outdoor tents, and convert the Hyde-Watson gym into a massive cafeteria. Student volunteers and faculty members spent countless hours packaging and distributing thousands of face masks and shields for the entire Pingry community. Meanwhile, the tech team installed speakers, microphones, cameras, and TV monitors in the classrooms to facilitate Pingry’s new hybrid learning model. Teachers rewrote their curricula to make sure that their plans for the year could handle both in-person and remote environments.
After a great summer-long effort, Pingry Anywhere was ready to be unveiled to the community. On September 14th, Pingry students walked back into campus to begin a school year like no other. Each student was required to fill out a pre-screening form before arriving on campus, wear a mask and shield, and try their best to spread out. Classes were hybrid, with some students joining via Zoom from home. After so many months of preparation, Mr. Levinson said of the occasion, “it was just so uplifting and gratifying to see months of planning come to fruition to bring our community back together.” Students were also extremely happy to be back.
“It was by far the oddest school day I’ve ever had,” said Dean Koenig (VI). “Seeing hundreds of faces in the same building for the first time in months, I thought there was no way in-person learning would last more than a few weeks.” While many students and faculty were initially doubtful about how long Pingry Anywhere would last, the new hybrid model proved to be extremely successful and resilient, in even the face of an uptick of local COVID-19 cases. Daily information on the spread of the virus was provided via the Pingry Anywhere Dashboard, and the addition of weekly pooled COVID testing provided by Mirimus Labs has helped to further ensure student safety.
Now almost two months into the new hybrid model of learning, Pingry Anywhere has proven to be a reliable system for learning during the COVID-19 era. As Mr. Levinson stated, Pingry Anywhere has “strengthened the sense of belonging that students feel as part of the Pingry community and has allowed us to come up with new ways of delivering on our promise of excellence.” Mr. Fahey, director of Pingry’s Health and Wellness Task Force, agreed, speculating on how “maybe the future of Pingry Anywhere is the future of education!” In the weeks that lie ahead, the limits of Pingry Anywhere will most definitely be tested, as the nation prepares for a possible winter spike in COVID-19 cases. Nonetheless, thanks to the flexibility of Pingry Anywhere, regardless of what happens, Pingry students and faculty can be assured that they will be well-protected, and the school will adjust to whatever circumstances arise.
By Andrew Wong (V)
This past May, with the COVID-19 pandemic still raging, Noah Bergam (VI), Kristin Osika (V), Eva Schiller (VI), and myself formed an organization called Care-Full to distribute PPE to underserved communities around New Jersey. With the new health and economic challenges brought on by the pandemic, we knew many in our local communities would be struggling financially and might not have access to masks, gloves, and hand sanitizers, and this problem would only be exacerbated in the next months. Rather than sitting back and watching, we took action, creating a plan to supply these necessities to the community.
We decided to create care packages consisting of a 30 mL bottle of hand sanitizer, three individually wrapped face masks, a pair of disposable gloves, and an originally designed pamphlet on how to stay safe during the pandemic. We all drew upon our various unique skill sets and connections to accomplish this task. Noah and Eva used their publishing experience to create advertising materials, Kristin reached out to various organizations for deliveries and donations, and I organized assembly sessions at Pingry to collect PPE and make our care packages. Our combined teamwork over the course of the summer allowed us to make and donate over 1,900 care packages, while raising almost $3,500 toward the creation of more packages.
Our care packages were gladly received by many in our local community. We donated to a variety of charity organizations, such as the Interfaith Food Pantry, NourishNJ, the Visiting Nurses Association of NJ, Market Street Mission, and various other nursing homes and churches across New Jersey. Helping the community through Care-Full has been especially rewarding for the team.
As America reopens, PPE is mandatory in most public settings; those without a mask are barred from entry to stores and small businesses. Those who lack access to PPE face limited entry into these public spaces, and thus necessities such as groceries might be difficult to come by. Additionally, going to work or buying food can be stressful for those who lack proper protection against COVID-19. By providing PPE in these care packages, they ensure that everyone – no matter their socioeconomic status, risk factors, or age – can visit public locations and go outside without difficulty or fear.
To continue these vital efforts and sustain their ability to provide PPE, Care-Full needs the help of everyone in the community. The Care-Full team is currently researching ways to raise awareness in order to create and distribute more care packages. Anyone can make a monetary donation by clicking the link on their website at care-full.org, or clicking the links on our Instagram (@we_are_carefull) pages. We can also be reached via email at email@example.com. All donations go directly to the making of care packages: just $2 can supply a care package to someone in need!
By Andrew Wong (IV)
If I had to pick a headline to summarize the entire COVID-19 pandemic here in America, it would have to be “North Carolina Man Steals Truck With 18,000 Pounds of Toilet Paper”. In a close second would probably be our good friend, the Florida Man with, “Florida Man Steals 66 Rolls of Toilet Paper”. In this time of great struggle and uncertainty in our nation, and indeed the entire world, it has become evident that it is fear, not reason, that drives the decision making of not just the two aforementioned characters, but also that of the entire world. We’ve all seen the news. Videos of people fighting over the last bag of rice at the supermarket. Lines stretching out the door of big box stores. As my friends across the world can confirm, there is not a single scrap of toilet paper to be found on store shelves anywhere. People are fearful, and it is evident that hope, just like toilet paper, is nowhere to be found.
Yes, people do have a right to be scared. The statistics can speak for themselves: Over 2.6 million people have been infected globally, with more than 800,000 cases here in the US alone. The world economy has come grinding to a halt, and American jobless claims are at their highest in the last 10 years. Our everyday lives have come to a complete standstill, as everyone around the world practices social distancing to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Yet, with all of these tribulations and challenges that we face presently, there is a brighter side to this crisis — more than just the infection numbers, death toll, or economy the media keeps yapping about.
The coronavirus has brought out the best in America, a good side that many in our country did not believe exist. Our entire nation, once derided by political pundits as “hopelessly divided”, is now united in a great crusade to fight back against the coronavirus. On Capitol Hill, for what may be the first time in recent memory, Democrats and Republicans have found common ground in a bid to provide relief packages for all Americans. President Trump and New York Governor Cuomo, once bitter political enemies, now work together daily to direct government policy towards the virus. Governor Cuomo’s daily press conferences have now become regular viewing for millions of Americans trapped at home, as he continues to send messages of encouragement and positivity not just to the state of New York, but to the entire nation.
Manufacturing companies have put aside their quest for profits to retool the production lines and make much needed PPE and ventilators. America’s biotech firms have now developed testing kits that can diagnose the virus in minutes and allow for more tests to be run, while scientists in laboratories across the globe work at breakneck speed to develop a vaccine in record time before winter arrives.
Doctors, nurses, and first responders in all 50 states are working tirelessly around the clock to contain this virus. It is thanks to the valiant work of our healthcare companies and professionals that the rate of infection is no longer exponential, and as Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, said two weeks ago, “we’re seeing [the curve] stabilize, and that gives us great encouragement”.
Social Media, once criticized as a force that only divided society, has now become the very thing holding everyone together while we are all separated. Crowdfunding campaigns to save local businesses from the economic tsunami caused by COVID-19. In New York City alone, thousands upon thousands of dollars have been raised by New Yorkers on GoFundMe to support local restaurants and stores who have been forced to close due to the pandemic. John Kransinski, of The Office fame, publishes new videos detailing good news happening around the world on YouTube every day to try and keep people positive during social distancing. New quarantine food trends, such as Dalgona coffee and no-knead bread have become popular as a result of these easy but tasty recipes being shared on the internet. Facebook groups have been set up to help provide groceries, toiletries, and home cooked meals to the elderly in order to keep them protected from the virus.
But the coronavirus hasn’t just brought out unprecedented goodness within our communities. It’s also brought us new opportunities. While COVID-19 may have forced us all to social distance inside, this new reality presents a whole host of opportunities for us. We have been given the gift of many months of free time, so what do we do with it? How about learning a new skill, or experimenting with new recipes? What else can you do with all that stockpiled food anyways?
Perhaps you could build a healthier lifestyle and use this time to build a better you. You could finish those side projects that you never had time for, or maybe start a new lifelong obsession with a new hobby. The choice is in your hands.
There is no way to know how long we will be inside, and based on the current numbers, there will be many more months, if not a year, before things return back to “normal”. But until then, as we witness the first great global crisis of the 21st century, an event that will be forever etched into the collective memory of our generation, let us be reminded that this crisis will be over some day. As we edge closer and closer to the light at the end of the tunnel, let’s put our best foot forward and do our best to remain positive through this tumultuous time. Let’s be inspired by the acts of kindness and humanity throughout the entire world and be our best selves. Let’s not allow our fear to control us, and instead remain hopeful that there are better days ahead of us. All we have to do is stay positive, keep smiling, and just believe.
By Andrew Wong (IV)
As the ball in Times Square finished its long descent, with the chants of over a million people in Times Square and millions more glued to their TV screens counting down, our world would be ushered into not only a new year, but a new decade.
5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Happy 2020.
For many of us here at Pingry, 2020 will be a year of great accomplishments and change. Seniors will go to college. Juniors will embark on the college process. Sophomores will start another hectic year of high school, and the freshmen will no longer be the wide-eyed newcomers they once were when they first walked in. This year, we will meet new people, we will learn new and fascinating subjects, and we will write the next chapter of our lives, as we enter another year, full of hope for the future.
At least, that was the plan.
On January 3, I opened Instagram to find a deluge of posts about World War III. These posts were in response to the U.S. drone strike that killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, and they ranged from sensationalized faux news reports on how the US was about to start a war with Iran, to memes detailing how to dodge the draft that the U.S. government would soon supposedly start. Media outlets had a field day with this news, as they scrambled to point a finger at who was to blame for this sudden escalation of panic.
As tensions rose, Iran would launch missiles at American troops, and 176 people would tragically die in a commercial airplane crash after being accidentally shot down. Maybe World War III would start after all. Of course, as we know now, World War III never did start, no one would be drafted, and the world breathed a collective sigh as we stepped back from that tense moment.
But it was just the start.
Later that week, I read on Hong Kong news that a new SARS-like virus had infected around 100 people in Wuhan, China, and medical experts were scrambling to identify what this new deadly virus was. By the next week, experts called it the novel coronavirus, which was spreading at an exponential rate and killing hundreds. As of February 2020, coronavirus has now spread to 28 countries, infected 35,000 people, and has killed 700 people.
As the world focused on the possibility of World War III and the spread of coronavirus, there would also be terrible and highly destructive environmental disasters. New wildfires would ravage the Australian Outback, there would be devastating earthquakes in Turkey and the Caribbean, and the worst locust swarms in over 70 years in East Africa would destroy thousands of acres of crops, eating over 1.8 million tons of vegetation a day.
On January 26, I, along with many other people around the world, watched in horror at the news that the great Kobe Bryant, at age 41, and his daughter Gianna, age 13, had been killed in a horrific helicopter accident in California. Fans around the world mourned the basketball legend, who had been an inspiration to the whole world on and off the court.
All of these horrible events, in the span of just a month into the new year. It is evident that this is not the 2020 we were looking for.
Browsing the internet today, it’s very easy to find memes or articles lamenting just how bad the start of the year was. The memes try to find some sense of humor in all the tragedies, while the articles will try to find a source of blame for the problems, whether in politicians, climate change, or even ourselves. Both sources continue this fearmongering with the argument that 2020 will only get worse. These memes and articles, while trying to be funny or push a pessimistic message, expose a wider, pernicious problem. It is evident that there has been a loss of hope in our world these days. According to a recent YouGov/Economist poll taken on January 9, 2020, less than 39% of respondents said they are optimistic about 2020.
Is this the world we want to live in? As we move deeper and deeper into 2020, we should not be afraid of this new year.
Pope Francis told diplomats in a speech at the Vatican in early January as tensions rose between the U.S. and Iran that “Precisely in light of these situations, we cannot give up hope. And hope requires courage. It means acknowledging that evil, suffering and death will not have the last word, and that even the most complex questions can and must be faced and resolved.”
If we move on past all the terrible events of January, there is a lot of hope that 2020 will be a good year. Already, efforts are being made to combat the spread of coronavirus, with new treatments and potential cures being discovered every day. New technologies will be unveiled that have the potential to change our world forever. We will meet new people and start new friendships and relationships that will change our lives forever. The year is still young, and there is so much to look forward to in this new year, regardless of all the tragedies that have befallen us. All we have to do is just remind ourselves there still is good in this world, and there is so much more to look forward to.
I am ready for this new year. Are you?
By Meghan Durkin (V) & Andrew Wong (IV)
On Thursday, March 12, amid concerns over the novel Coronavirus, known as COVID-19, Head of School Matt Levinson announced that Pingry would adopt a remote learning model until at least April 10. On Friday, March 27, heeding Governor Murphy’s updated advisory, this remote learning regime was extended to April 17.
School-sponsored activities, including athletics, were suspended as well, in hopes of keeping the Pingry community safe. This news followed the cancellation of multiple spring break trips, including the French exchange program and the athletic trips to Florida.
Prior to Spring Break, as New Jersey reported its first case of COVID-19, Pingry prepared for likely disruptions as a result of the virus. Mr. Levinson assembled a task force, led by Associate Director of Operations, Safety, and Strategic Initiatives David Fahey, to monitor the situation as it evolved. This model “allows us to act with deliberate speed and care in our decision-making, while also being nimble and adaptive to changing circumstances,” said Mr. Levinson. So far, the biggest challenge for the task force “has been the speed at which [COVID-19] has unfolded.” While COVID-19 spread from China to South Korea to Italy, the virus seemed to be a distant threat. Though, by late March, the United States had over 27,000 confirmed cases.
As Pingry does its part to slow the spread of COVID-19, a new reality of “social distancing” has affected faculty and students. Governor Phil Murphy ordered a statewide lockdown, which encourages people to stay home and shuts down all non-essential business, leaving vacations cancelled, standardized tests postponed, and store shelves empty. Pingry’s remote learning model looks to continue fostering educational growth, while keeping Pingry and the greater community healthy. Teachers, by using virtual classes and online assignments, hope to make remote learning engaging and effective. Mr. Tim Grant, a chemistry teacher, explained the “need to try to create a classroom feel where everyone can feel heard and be involved,” as he believes “a class does involve the transfer of information, but much more importantly it must have the feeling of community.” For many teachers, including Mr. Grant, effectively using remote learning will be a “journey that to me looks like I’ve been air-dropped into the Amazon and I can’t imagine what comes next. The journey will be both scary and exciting with many new discoveries.”
Dean Ananya Chatterji echoed this sentiment in an email to Upper School students, expressing the faculty’s shared hopes for the extended closure. She explained that transitioning to online learning “is NOT going to be perfect. Everyone knows this, and no one — not a single one of us — expects that this will go smoothly. We are hoping to treat it like an adventure: something we can try our best at, knowing there will be pitfalls and successes. Most of all, adventures should be fun. So our hope, as a faculty, is to have fun with it.”
Students will also have to adapt to new circumstances, not only academically, but also extracurricularly. With delayed athletic seasons that face possible cancellations, students look to make the best of the unexpected situation. Mr. Grant, who coaches girls’ varsity track, explained his realization “that [he] must give enough information so that each athlete can learn how to coach themselves.” Both students and coaches must find “some gems against the rubble,” as they stay in-shape and prepare for a potential season at home. Along with sports, clubs face new challenges, as they hope to keep members connected online.
Furthermore, this new territory of remote learning changes many students experience socially. Sanjana Biswas (V) said, “I’ll miss my friends the most and just the experience of being in school. As much as we complain about it, we all have fun talking to our friends during lunch and flexes and going to class.” Though, she added, “It’s pretty easy to stay in touch through FaceTime and text.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, the Pingry community looks to be cautious, as the possibility of extended closure looms. Students and faculty alike promise to remain open and positive throughout these uncertain times. Gia Kalro (V) believes that while “we’ll have a lot of trial and error, eventually it will all work out.”
As of March 22, global Coronavirus cases have surpassed 300,000. In just a few weeks, everyday life in the United States and abroad has been replaced by social distancing and self-quarantining, while each day the number of cases grows. Though, during this time of uncertainty, both the Pingry and global community has stressed the importance of staying calm and maintaining hope. Mr. Levinson encourages students “to have fun, try new things, be creative, and take the time to get outside for some fresh air,” while finding “ways to build community remotely, whether it’s around a shared interest like a club, or around a passion project.” He asks the community to “be patient as we all discover new ways of learning and being in community together.”