Punk Culture’s Influence on Politics


By Mira Eashwaran

Punk music is typically labeled as a loud, obnoxious, and raucous cacophony of sounds varying from screechy guitar riffs to drum solos that can penetrate even the loudest crowd. It practically dominated the music scene in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, airing the laundry about mental illness, drugs, depression, politics and love. Green Day, a belligerent band incepted in Berkeley, California in 1986, still is known for being deliberately outspoken on politics, reaching their peaks during the Reagan, George W. Bush, and Trump Administrations.

Green Day, with its outspoken lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong, published their groundbreaking political album American Idiot in 2004, three years after planes crashed through the Twin Towers in New York City and one year after the U.S. invaded Iraq and overthrew Saddam Hussien’s government.

“The war on terror plays right into the kind of war that the supposed terrorists want to have with this jihad,” Armstrong told the Rolling Stone in 2005. “All of a sudden it’s not about terrorism. All of a sudden it becomes Christianity against Islam – and nothing can get the blood boiling of the fundamentalist Muslims than something like that.”

Armstrong, now a husband and father, also went through his fair share of struggle during the Vietnam War. His uncle Jay was shot during Vietnam while jumping midair in a parachute.

“From the youngest age I can remember, I thought, ‘Going in the military equals death at a young age.’ That scared the sh*t out of me and made no sense to me whatsoever,” Armstrong told John Colapinto from the Rolling Stone.

Armstrong says that he writes his songs to understand what he feels, especially during times that conversation is stagnant and invisible. He wrote the band’s bass-lined hit “Holiday” with an “apocalyptic way of writing.” Amstrong wrote the bridge of “Holiday” by pulling in phrases from Nazi Germany, the Senate, France and California. Armstrong, a polarizing force in punk music and politics, screams about the disinformation and haziness of the political environment surrounding the Iraq War, singing on the track that “this is our lives on holiday” and told Rolling Stone that the song was about people “just being stupid, tuning out and not paying attention to what’s going on”.

Armstrong isn’t the only punk rocker that understands the importance of punk culture and music culture on politics and general society. Ian Hemerlein is a graduate of the University of Georgia in Athens and his band, Kwazymoto, specializes in “experimental” music and “noise rock.” Hemerlein is 23 and majored in environmental economics and completed the Music Business Certificate at the Terry Institute. Hemerlein, who plays guitar and sings for the band, works with his friend and drummer Kody Blackmon.

Punchy Punk
Ian Hemerlein (guitar) and Kody Blackmon (drums) plays at the Caledonia Lounge on April 6, 2019 at a show celebrating their EP release. Photo by Mike White of Deadly Designs.

Although Hemerlein identifies as apolitical and indifferent to politics, he believes that “a lot of times people assume that stuff in music has to be influenced by outside forces like other bands, culture and politics. But I’m more of a fan of being a representation of your experience and being influenced by your thoughts, feelings, and experiences and looking into yourself.”

Hemerlein recounts his interest in grunge band Nirvana in high school, and says that “songs like ‘Pauly’ and ‘Rape Me’ by Nirvana definitely reflected an anti-misogynistic viewpoint that Kurt Cobain had that I thought it was cool to see, especially in 90’s grunge music. A lot of heavy music was predominantly a white-male dominated scene, so it was cool that he was an early advocate of that sort of thing.”

In terms of Green Day’s iconic song, Hemerlein said he thinks that Armstrong was “trying to make a statement on how a lot of times with these bureaucratic systems we have in place with war and the way we can treat each other. I think it can make us as people look hypocritical…”

“We have a lot of places on paper, like in our actual Constitution and religious texts that a lot of Americans use, that say that we’re supposed to be in unity and be loving and at peace with each other. But it seems like more of the time than not, we’re actually engaging in very anti-peaceful behaviors, like sending people to war.”

“I like that [punk has] always been, it can be political or not, like an attitude. To me, the attitude is…that you can say whatever you think, which is why there’s all different kinds of punk music and eras of it and how it’s affected politics and culture. It’s a way to state an opinion in a blunt, direct way,” said Hemerlein. “It really emphasizes freedom of speech in a way that freedom of speech doesn’t actually exist. Freedom of speech is supposed to be this thing that we can say whatever we want, but there’s actually a ton of ways in which we’re all censored because people are extremely offended by things. In the punk realm, I feel like [freedom of speech] exists more.”

Punk culture has had an intense effect on politics, from the Iraq War to the current political climate. It’s meant to be unleashed, free and liberating. Punk rockers today are exercising their freedom of speech enshrined in the Constitution, with no holding back.  

“Rock & roll should be dangerous,” Armstrong told Rolling Stone. “It should be striking and stir questions.”

According to Rolling Stone, as an explosive leather-ridden punk idol once screamed into a microphone, “They don’t have the power! You’re the f*ckin’ leaders! We elect these people into office! Don’t let them dictate your life or tell you what to do!”

We the Future


By Jordan Owens

In 1971, the 26th amendment was ratified lowering the voting age to 18, yet almost 50 years later young people choose not to vote.

“We want young people to vote for a couple of reasons. One reason is that they make up so much of the population now,” says former Georgia State Rep. Deborah Gonzalez. “And the second reason why young people need to vote is that they are voting for their future.”

In the past 48 years, voting rates have dropped nearly 15 percent among people 18 to 29. Not only do Millennials and some of Generation Z choose not to play a part in our democracy, but they also seem to only vote in the Presidential elections.

“Every election is important because every election we are electing different people for different seats, and we need those votes to make our democracy work,” Gonzalez says.

Even though young people make up half of the voting population, they have the lowest voting rates out of all the age groups in the U.S.

With easy access to the internet, there is no need for the excuse “I don’t understand” to ignore these rights that are given. There are many websites, like The New York Times, that give information on candidates and other issues. Youtube can also be used as a way to see debates and speeches made by candidates.

Some people think what is going on in our government will not affect them only because it is not now. The truth is many laws put into effect now will not affect people immediately, instead, they will most likely not feel the consequences for at least five years.

Making that kind of life change starts now. This is the world that the older generations are leaving behind. “Fifty-four percent of Georgia Representatives and Senators list their occupation as retired, and it gives a sense of just how old they are,” says Gonzalez.

The generations that can do something about it has to. If this generation does not, then there will never be any progress, and the future generations will get stuck repeating the same history.

Voting in elections start with registering. Some high schools and colleges let their students register there, and anyone else can go online. After getting informed, people can then vote on the person who best matches their views.

Gonzalez says, “It’s very important for [young people] to get involved now ’cause it’s about them.”

Becoming Naturally Me

Features, Opinion

By Jordan Owens

Originally posted on theprowlernews.org

Finding identity through hair

For a while, I have been struggling with my identity.

It is hard living in a community that is majority white while having friends and family from a mostly black community. When I visit them I am always questioned on if I am black enough. When I come back home, I feel  like I am being judged because I am too black. Sometimes it feels like I can never just be me.

As a consequence of this, over the past couple of years, I have had to figure out what kind of person I am, whether it is sometimes playing into some of those black stereotypes or embracing what it means to live in Peachtree City.

As part of my journey with my identity, I decided to learn more about my hair. Not the hair that gets straightened every two to three weeks, but the one that is naturally a thick, curly afro. I researched why so many black women get their hair permed, known as relaxed, and straightened, known as pressed, since I have always gotten it that way like all of the other black women I have grown up around.

I learned that getting a relaxer in your hair or getting it pressed was and still is being used as a form of oppression to get black women to fit into more of a European society.

With this new realization and the fascination with my natural hair, I decided to set off on a year-long challenge of not straightening or putting any kind of chemically straightening products in my hair.

This challenge for me started on April 3, 2018, just after Easter, and at first, it was not much of a challenge. Since every summer I get my hair braided, that year was no different. Then when school started up, I had crochet weave for about two weeks, and after that, it was back to braids for marching band season.

Considering I used braids as somewhat of a shortcut to this challenge for most of the first semester of school, my first experience with my natural hair was amazing. After I took out the braids, washed my hair, and styled it the way I wanted, I thought my hair looked incredible.

Though that did not stop the fears of how I thought my peers would react. From reactions I had read online with other women doing the same thing, I thought many would say my hair just looked like a nappy mess. However, when I went to school that day, I heard the most compliments I’ve ever received for my hair.

Things did not end up getting harsh until the second semester when I did not have as many extracurriculars. At that point, I had to actually care for my hair myself.

Since no one in my family handles their natural hair daily, I could not ask them for help. There were so many days where I had to keep my hair in a ponytail and so many days where I wanted to quit because I was just so overwhelmed.

Eventually, I was able to manage my hair, thanks to a natural hair salon in Atlanta. They told me more about my hair texture and what type of products I could and could not put in it. They also said that because of my hair being pressed all my life, and the heat damage it caused, I was not going to be able to get it as natural as it was when I was born.

Hearing this deeply hurt me. Trying to get most of my natural curl pattern back became the major reason to why I was doing this one year challenge.

In those last two weeks, I got into a routine of washing and twisting my hair the night before, then untwisting and letting it fall the day of school. No comb, no brush, some oil to make it look shiny, and that was it.

When the year was up, I scheduled a hair appointment to get my hair straightened to see how long it had gotten. As the days got closer I became scared at the thought of losing my curls again and causing even more heat damage.

After I had gotten my hair pressed I felt weird, and the person I was looking at in the mirror did not feel like me anymore. It felt like a stranger, and I did not like it. That was when I promised myself I would not straighten my hair again unless I wanted to, not because I felt like I had to.

I would highly recommend trying this one year challenge. It not only gives you a chance to truly see your natural hair but with the experience, you can learn so much about yourself.

Prepare and get to know your hair. Do some research, or go to someone who has experience with natural hair, because jumping right into it is not a good idea. Without preparing, you will not know what kind of products to use, and that could cause further damage.

Also, keep in mind that just because you want to go natural does not mean it is easier to handle — in some ways it is actually kind of harder. Do not give up just because people tell you they don’t like it or because it seems too difficult. If this is something you truly want to do, then do it.

Straightening your hair one time to see how long it has gotten does not mean it will go back to being completely damaged. Just keep your hair natural and do not press it repeatedly for an excessive amount of time, then your curl pattern will get better over time.

Even though my goal with this challenge was to see if I would like having natural hair, I have ended up learning a lot about myself and the kind of person I am. I have learned that only I can identify myself.

Oppression by straightening hair has already started to change, so there is no need to be afraid anymore.

Snoozing Students


By Maya Cornish

There are many factors of why high school-aged students are feeling less than rested most days, such as biology, technology and stress. For their future to succeed, certain changes need to be made.

It’s 7:00 a.m., a high school student drags themselves out of bed and gets dressed half-awake and snags a Red Bull from the kitchen to give themselves a jumpstart before sluggishly getting on the school bus.

They arrive to school, classes starting at 8:00 a.m., but their eyes feel weighted with a multitude of bricks. This feeling sticks with them the whole day, getting harder to fight against as the day goes on. The student finishes school at 3:25 p.m., only to move on to extracurriculars.

They then go home, barely able to convince themselves to put on foot in front of the other with homework yet to complete. Finding time to eat a quick dinner, the student does not go to bed until 1:00 a.m., having to complete the cycle all over again.

“Junior year (is) always one of the busiest years, (and) I was taking a mixture of (International Baccalaureate) and (Advanced Placement) classes, which are higher level classes that require a lot of time outside of school to study and do homework. On top of that, I founded my own program and was facilitating meetings, running (the program) and basically being the program,” Hanover High School rising senior Sophie Ward said. “Towards the end of the school year that resulted in me being nominated for a lot of awards which took up a lot of my time and a lot of my nights (and I) also was the editor in chief of my (school) newspaper.”

Ward’s experience is similar to many. A survey of high school students attending the Grady College Media & Leadership Academy showed that 95 percent of students receive less than eight hours of sleep during the school year. All over the country, this is the story of high school students who are not getting the sleep that they need to be successful.

“Some studies report up to 90 percent of teenagers are getting less than the amount of sleep that they should be getting,” University of Georgia graduate student Sarah Lyle said. “Decreased sleep can actually lead to more stress as well, so it’s kind of like a vicious cycle.”

In today’s modern society, the usage of technology are becoming present due to a multitude of factors. Screens release blue light, which tells the brain not to produce melatonin, the sleep hormone. This disrupts the circadian rhythm, the cycle of being awake and asleep.

This nighttime ritual is becoming common in society, especially among teenagers. In a 2016 Deloitte Global Mobile Consumer Survey, 50 percent of those who checked and got on their phone at night were 18-24 year olds.

“I feel like it puts me to sleep because when you’re laying in bed and can’t go to sleep, it’s something to do. Like, you can scroll on any form of social media until you get drowsy,” Fitzgerald High School rising junior Nate Walker said. “Then if you want to turn it off right before you go to sleep, you can, and I know some people who fall asleep on their phones.”

It seems like a harmless act, but the consequences will last for a life time.

“We lay in bed and essentially shine a flashlight in our eyes and the flashlight is (the phone),” UGA Department of Psychology associate professor Janet Frick said. “It’s like your brain thinks ‘oh, it’s morning’ (and) so that’s a structural change that actually has an effect on the brain.”

During her junior year, Ward was extremely busy with taking higher level classes, starting a program for high school students to talk about mental health with middle school students and preparing for a number of award acceptances due to the program.

“(For) example, I didn’t think I was nervous for my (Advanced Placement) exam, … and then I went to bed the night before my AP exam and I just couldn’t sleep,” Ward said. “(I was) waking up every hour (and) I had a nightmare that I was late to the exam, which I don’t even know where that came from, and I thought I wasn’t nervous about it but (when) I was trying to sleep I couldn’t.”

Things won’t improve until certain changes are made.

“The biggest one is school start time, having it be as late as possible for high schools and I know it’s not necessarily a popular thing, but Athens has a curfew for people under the age of 18 (that are) not supposed to be out past midnight,” Frick said. “I think community-wide curfews are probably good policies.”

“You want to regulate your sleep cycle, so shifting from weekday to weekend try to keep that (at a) minimum. …That not only helps your body but also your physical health (and) your mental health,” Lyle said. “Limiting screens before bed is helpful. So in our computer and on our phone we have a lot of what’s called blue light, which stops the body from producing melatonin. …So if you limit screens a couple hours before you go to bed that will help your natural melatonin actually start producing so that you get sleepy and fall asleep.”

Calling Out Catcalling


By Maya Cornish

ODYSSEY Newsmagazine News Editor Maya Cornish shares her experience about catcalling, and how it has the opposite effect of enticing women by making them feel objectified.

I was at my internship one day, and one of the tasks I had to do was clean the front glass doors. I was wearing a t-shirt and jean shorts, and to reach the lower half of the doors I squatted down. I thought nothing of it.

Behind me there were two guys walking by. They were young, late twenties to early thirties in casual clothes. In the reflection of the glass, I saw them take a small notice of me and continued walking, but then both stopped in their tracks.

It was almost like a cartoon, the two of them walking backwards and craning their necks to get a better look at me. One said to me, “Nice a**!” before he and his friend continued walking away.

I have been catcalled, touched and critiqued for what I wore and how I acted many times before and after that event. And I am not the only one. Girls and women alike share in this experience, being objectified with unnecessary comments in inappropriate situations.

This should not be considered normal in our society.

According to a study by anti-harassment group iHollaback and Cornell University, “85 percent of U.S. women have reported experiencing street harassment for the first time before age 17.”

There are some women who enjoy the attention. As New York Post writer Doree Lewak says, “For me, it’s nothing short of exhilarating yielding an unmatched level of euphoria.”

For most women, though, the unsolicited attention does not provide them a feeling of “euphoria” and instead one of discomfort.

In an email, 23-year-old Sophie Sandberg, who runs Instagram account @catcallsofnyc and has experienced catcalling herself since age 15, says “[women who use catcalling as a form of empowerment] may have internalized certain misogynistic ideas that their worth is tied up with their physical appearance, their body and their sexuality.”

Catcalling certainly won’t stop if women continue to stay silent when it happens. And fighting back (like insulting the aggressor) will only create tension, potentially escalating the situation. What needs to happen is a dialogue between people to educate how street harassment is inappropriate in any circumstance.

Women are not objects for male pleasure. And until men understand this, young girls will continue to equate their body with crude descriptions from strangers on the street.

Botanical Gardens Gives Fresh Produce to Athens Community

Features, News

By Charlotte Luke

This summer, the Dig and Grow area of the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia bursts with delicious colors and smells: purple, red, and yellow stalks of chard, fragrant leaves of basil, tiny tomatoes budding from their vines, kale curling out of the soil.

More than 1,000 edible plants grown from seed by the Garden’s greenhouse manager, Melanie Parker, were planted in January 2018. Today, Dig and Grow is a thriving source of fresh vegetables and herbs and an important opportunity for “children [to] learn at an early age that vegetables don’t come from the grocery store originally,” said Ann Frierson, an advisory board member of the Botanical Garden for three decades.

But in addition to providing an “edible gardening experiential learning gallery,” said Cora Keber, Director of Education at the Botanical Garden, Dig and Grow provides fresh produce for people in the Athens community.

After the grand opening of the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden in March, the Botanical Garden partnered with Campus Kitchen, a student-run hunger relief program of the UGA Office of Service-Learning. Specifically, much of the produce grown in the Dig and Grow area of the Children’s Garden supports Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, a program through Campus Kitchen in which participants receive pre-made meals and a bag of fresh produce each week.

“We have donated hundreds of pounds of produce since opening in March and will continue to provide to our community whether it be through tasting in the garden, our programs or meals and produce provided by Campus Kitchen,” said Ms. Keber.

Dig and Grow and the Botanical Garden cultivate food and educational experiences, but Ann Frierson said she also envisions the Garden as a nice escape for visitors.

“The beauty of this garden is that it exposes people to nature which is becoming something harder and harder to experience as we become a concrete jungle, and to be able to get out within nature is critical to everyone’s state of mind.”

The grounds of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia are open Monday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission and parking are free.

How Words Shape Self-Image


By Charlotte Luke

“I look so bad in that picture.”

“I wish my eyelashes were as long as yours.”

“I shouldn’t have this ice cream.”

I hear people, particularly women, disparage their appearances constantly, or compare themselves unfavorably to others. In fact, I cannot remember the last time someone admitted to me that they looked good in a photograph, while nearly everyone I encounter swears they have no photogenic qualities.

I’ve heard friends complain about the length of their faces, the shape of their fingernails, the speed of their metabolism—virtually every aspect of their faces and bodies, inside and out. Interestingly, I often get the sense that people self-deprecate in order to fit in, as if they are afraid that confidence will be perceived as arrogance. In this case, self-deprecation becomes a “funny” competition among friends:

Who is the ugliest?

Who is the fattest?

Who has the worst skin coloring?

But when people point out so-called flaws in themselves, I can’t help but think they begin to believe their appearances are truly flawed, so they use concealer, Photoshop and weight loss programs in order to feel good.

I use “they” as opposed to “we” because about a year ago, I decided to stop playing the self-deprecation game. Before I consciously made this change, I wore powder to cover up acne scars, I dreaded school picture day, I used special shampoo to combat my frizzy hair; when friends commented on themselves, I jumped in with, “No, at least you look better than me.” But to be honest, my habit of pointing out flaws grew tiresome; I wanted to feel good in the person I naturally am, so I learned to hold my tongue when I saw photos of myself or looked in the mirror with my friends.

The effect was not immediate, but I found that when I stopped vocalizing my negative remarks, I stopped seeing as many “flaws” in my appearance. I feel comfortable going without makeup, I feel comfortable telling others I like photographs of my face and body, and for the most part I’ve stopped comparing myself to others in ways that degrade myself.

I just wish it weren’t so uncommon to find people who also understand that our words can become our true perceptions of ourselves, even if we claim to celebrate our appearances.

Because you look good in that picture.

Because your eyelashes are beautiful.

Because you can have this ice cream.

Students and Professionals Want More Comprehensive Sex Education


By Sophie Ward

Sexuality is an important part of everyone’s life and teens want to see a change in the way that sex is talked about in schools.

“They treat sex like it’s a problem or just something that people do to reproduce,” junior Aryanna Russell from Atlanta said. “They don’t talk about what sex is, the emotion behind it or how it can be used to have a connection with someone.”

Youth and adolescents in public schools across the country engage in sex education classes with varying curriculums and focuses. Most of these sex education classes concentrate on teaching the importance of abstinence and the potential dangers of having sex before marriage. Recently, sex education classes have become increasingly controversial as students and health professionals across the country are dissatisfied with the way these classes are taught in their schools and desire a better, more comprehensive approach.

“Sex education should equip teens with what they need to know to be adults in the world,” said Brian Creech, a professor at Temple University who previously taught sex education at The North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. “So the responsible thing to do is to give them the information they need to make responsible, informed decisions about sexuality, their health and their bodies.”

61% of students polled at the Media & Leadership Academy at the University of Georgia feel that the sex education they recieved at their public school was inadequate and did not provide comprehensive information. The majority of teens from various backgrounds and multiple parts of the country do not feel thoroughly educated on the topic of sex. Even though teens feel this way, school administrators are reluctant to make changes due to fear of stirring up controversy for their school.

“Sex is controversial and there’s a lot of organized groups who focus primarily on schools as a way to forward their own agenda and opinion on sex,” Creech said. “And because administrators are squeamish and risk averse, they are really receptive to any sort of criticism from anyone with a loud voice. There’s nothing a school administrator fears more than an angry phone call from a parent.”

A median 77.2% of schools in the United States teach the benefits of being sexually abstinent in their sex education curriculum according to the CDC’s annual report on School Health Characteristics from 2014. Students claim that these abstinence-only curriculums fail to include practical information that will help them navigate their complicated adolescence, such as how to practice safe sex if they choose to do so, advice on what to do if you do become pregnant and information on types of birth control or contraception. A mere 39.9% of schools teach the importance of using condoms and practicing safe sex in sex education. Focusing on teaching abstinence versus a comprehensive approach could have detrimental effects, including an increase in teen pregnancy and an outbreak of sexually transmitted diseases in teens.

“I think the best way to prevent people from getting STDs or getting pregnant is to actually teach safe and consensual sex,” senior Erin Stafford from Paducah, Kentucky said. “People are going to have sex no matter what so we need to teach people how to use contraception, birth control and condoms.”

Mainstream groups of health professionals, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine, have come out strongly against abstinence-only approaches, stating that this type of curriculum does not provide teens with all the information they need to make wise, informed choices about sex.

Many sex education curriculums focus so heavily on promoting abstinence and discussing all of the potential consequences of having premarital sex that they create the idea that sex is a problem that needs to be solved. This can make students feel like they are doing something terribly wrong that needs to be fixed by having any type of sexual feelings or curiosities. In reality, this is something that is normal and expected for teenagers to experience. Teens feel that they are not able to make their own informed decisions about whether or not to have sex in high school due to the way sex is presented in schools.

“When you get to a mature enough age and you feel like you are ready to have sex, that’s a personal decision and you should be able to without influence from others,” Stafford said. “I don’t think it should be something that you feel guilty about or that you should be told it is going to ruin your life.”

Students already have the potential to feel that sexuality is a taboo subject based on societal impacts, their family’s beliefs or their upbringing. This is further developed when sex education instructors make sex seem like a horrible act that could ruin lives, causing students to be reluctant to ask questions or talk about their sexual feelings.

“The way that sex education is taught makes me uncomfortable to talk to anyone about sex,” Stafford said. “When I go to an OBGYN, a person who I know specializes in sex, I don’t even feel comfortable talking to her because we don’t talk about it in school and it makes me feel like it’s not okay to talk about.”

These issues affect all teens, but some of the effects are specific to female students. Teen girls are made to feel like experiences that are normal and expected for teens, such as being sexually aroused or having curiosities are wrong and should not be discussed.

“Girls experience puberty and those kinds of hormones before guys do, but they don’t really talk about what girls can feel or experience when getting turned on,” Stafford said. When I was younger, I never realized what that feeling was like or why I was having those feelings. They don’t talk about that for girls, but for guys it’s normalized.”

These disparities between sex education for male and female students can send dangerous messages to students that can affect the way they act for the rest of their lives. Discussions about giving and receiving consent before having sex are often left out of the curriculum.

“Whether you’re against teaching too much about birth control, too much about abortion, or going into to much graphic detail about sex, talking about consent should be non-negotiable,” Creech said. “Understanding the language around consent is really important for all teens to fully understand before they go out into the world to make their own decisions about sex and sexuality.”

The purpose of some curriculums adopted by school systems may have religious undertones, even if they are being taught in public schools.

“Public school is supposed to be a secular place so teachers should not bring in their personal beliefs into what they are teaching and that is doing a disservice to the students who may not share those beliefs,” Russell said. “With the religious undertones, they are not going to be inclusive or LGBT people and they are not going to talk about how sex and pleasure works because that doesn’t go with their religious beliefs.”

Sex education classes often limit the discussion to heterosexual relationships, leaving students who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community without accurate, meaningful information about gender identity and sexuality. LGBTQ+ youth are not provided with adequate examples of positive LGBTQ+ relationships, information on safe sex between same-sex couples, or support when questioning their sexuality or gender identity.

“The population of people that are out as LGBTQ+ is greater than it was in the older generation and more people are being open about their sexuality,” sophomore Mira Eashwaran from Milton, Georgia said. “I feel like it needs to be addressed and sex ed needs to be taught for all types of sex. People of that community are more prone to STDs because they are not taught in schools how to be safe.”

This lack of information and support can be detrimental to the mental health of these students and could result in substance abuse, self-harm, and students engaging in risky sexual behavior without proper protection. According to the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), only 4% of LGBTQ+ youth in the United States are taught positive information about LGBTQ+ people or issues in sex and health. These youth are already subject to overt homophobia including physical and psychological bullying and social ostracism coming from their schools, peers and, in some cases, their families. Not being included in the discussions that take place in sex education classes is a form of covert homophobia that further alienates LGBTQ+ students.

“LGBT students are not educated properly on sex and when kids aren’t taught in a safe environment, they go to the Internet,” Russell said. “And that is not an accurate portrayal of sex, especially for young queer people.”

Teens have an abundance of information at their fingertips with their cellphones and Internet access at their disposal at any time. If teens are not educated thoroughly on sex, they are more prone to turn to pornography for their information which does not provide a healthy or accurate depiction of safe sex.

“A lot of pornography is made by women who are trafficked and it’s not a healthy way for teens to learn about sex,” senior Bridget Frame from Roswell, Georgia said. “It’s putting a lot of kids at risk for not knowing what a relationship should be like or how they should be treated in a sexual relationship.”

The adolescent years are extremely important and influential for development. They are the years where you become who you are and discover parts of yourself that you may have not explored before. Teens across the country feel the importance of sex education for all adolescents and want change in the way that it is taught in public schools.

“What people don’t think about when they move to abstinence-only curriculum is that what you’re doing is sending students out into the world without the knowledge they need to manage themselves in the world,” Creech said.

Behind Our Fascination with OJ Simpson


By Jackson Stone

It’s been 25 years since Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were infamously slain and football star-turned-media mogul OJ Simpson was shockingly acquitted of their murders in what became known as the Trial of the Century.

However, in 2019, “The Juice” is still as relevant as ever in pop culture, even with a generation that was not around to experience the hysteria that surrounded both the murders and the subsequent trial.

Recently, Simpson, who was freed in 2017 after a separate prison sentence stemming from armed robbery, joined Twitter, and in under a week has amassed nearly one million followers. His first tweet was a video of himself pledging to use Twitter to “set the record straight,” before informing his followers that he has “a little getting even to do.” Not exactly the words you want to hear from OJ Simpson.

The incentive is clearly there for Simpson himself to want to utilize social media as a platform, when virtually every media publication refuses to post anything positive about him.

“[Simpson’s use of Twitter] is very reminiscent of what President Trump does with Twitter,” says UGA social media and journalism expert Dr. Amanda Bright. “He sees it as a conduit for him to speak directly to the people and set the record straight.”

Simpson’s name popped up in the news quite a bit in 2016 as two different TV productions—one an extensive documentary by ESPN and one an FX mini-series—aired around the same time that cast a light on the racial aspect of the trial. The trial took place in Los Angeles, a city whose police department’s reputation had been severely damaged by events like the Rodney King beatings and the subsequent riots. The defense used these racial tensions to suggest that Simpson was the victim of systematic injustice in law enforcement, and this aspect was a big reason why they won the case. Of course, police brutality is still a topic that is prominent in today’s society, so this may be a reason why the story of Simpson still resonates so heavily with people.

“I would say that he is still relevant because his case touched on so many issues that are still with us today, especially domestic violence and race relations,” said UGA public relations and media expert Karen Russell. “The trial was a television sensation, but everyone already knew who he was before that because of his football career and TV endorsements, so there was a celebrity angle as well.”

In 2017, rapper Jay-Z released “The Story of O.J.,” a song commenting on Simpson’s alleged belief that his fame and wealth could transcend his race. This song, along with the accompanying music video, also brought Simpson’s name back into the limelight, which could contribute to how younger social media users may be familiar with him now.

It doesn’t reflect well on our society that Simpson is now treated as more of a joke or a meme by younger audiences, despite the tragedy surrounding the murders he may or may not have committed as well as the racial tensions with which he is associated. A quick scroll through his Twitter comments will lead you to find hundreds of puns to the effect of, “you’re really killing it on Twitter, OJ!”

“You look at the replies, and it’s a bunch of people making memes and joking about how he’s on Twitter,” said high school student and Twitter user Noah Monroe. “The whole thing is just a funny situation.”

What makes people today so willing to joke around with a man whom many suspect of being a murderer?

“For the younger group, there’s really no cultural relevance; they don’t remember the verdict being handed down, but they know the general concept of it,” said Bright. “I think it’s easier to make fun of when you’re a step removed.”

Even beyond the jokes and memes, there is still an undeniable fascination with the man who was once a loveable athlete and media darling and then became associated with cold-blooded murder.

“I think that desire to hear from someone who has been closeted for so long is overwhelmingly attractive,” says Bright. “All of his [Twitter] videos are poolside…he looks like he’s from a place of luxury, and you juxtapose that with the 25th anniversary, and you think ‘oh my God, this guy’s living the life.’”



Smriti Tayal, 17, is from Roswell High School in Roswell, Georgia. She participated in the AD/PR track.

Spencer Bullard, 18, is from Appling County High School in Baxly, Georgia. He participated in the AD/PR track.

Talyn Burgess-Jimene, 17, is from Memorial Senior High School in Houston, Texas. She participated in the AD/PR track.

Paige Cotter, 16, is from Trinity Christian Academy in Dallas, Texas. She participated in the AD/PR track.

Sydney Smith, 16, is from St. Pius X Catholic High School in Lawrenceville, Georgia. She participated in the Journalism Broadcast track.

Jade Kelley, 17, is from Palm Beach Gardens High School in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. She participated in the Journalism Broadcast track.

Chloe Fowler, 17, is from Kipp Atlanta Collegiate in Atlanta, Georgia. She participated in the Journalism Broadcast track.

Chloe Franklin, 17, is from Lake Point Academy in Rock Hill, South Carolina. She participated in the Journalism Broadcast track.

Bridget Frame, 17, is from Roswell High School in Roswell, Georgia. She participated in the Journalism Website track.

Elyssa Abbott, 16, is from North Cobb High School in Kennesaw, Georgia. She participated in the Journalism Broadcast track.

James MacElroy, 17, is from Dunwoody High School in Dunwoody, Georgia. He participated in the Entertainment track.

Camryn Bryant, 16, is from Cambridge High School in Milton, Georgia. She participated in the Entertainment track.

Baylee Brown, 17, is from Gordon Lee Memorial High School in Chickamauga, Georgia. He participated in the Entertainment track.

Fernando Zarate, 17, is from Berkmar High School in Lilburn, Georgia. He participated in the Entertainment track.

Andrew Neville, 17, is from Pace Academy in Atlanta, Georgia. He participated in the Journalism Broadcast track.

Paul Miller, 17, is from Oak Mountain High School in Birmingham, Alabama. He participated in the Journalism Broadcast track.

Zamariah Strozier, 15, is from Kipp Atlanta Collegiate in Atlanta, Georgia. She participated in the Journalism Broadcast track.

Colin Wright, 17, is from Fenwick High School in Oak Park, Illinois. He participated in the Journalism Broadcast track.

Sarah DeBruhl, 18, is from Southwest Dekalb High School in Decatur, Georgia. She participated in the Journalism Broadcast track.

Chiqui Benton, 17, is from Kipp Atlanta Collegiate in Atlanta, Georgia. She participated in the Journalism Broadcast track.

Alexandra Oyon, 17, is from Walton High School in Marietta, Georgia. She participated in the Journalism Broadcast track.

Amber Jones, 17, is from Nolensville High School in Nolensville, Tennessee. She participated in the Journalism Broadcast track.

Jack Sloane, 17, is from Marietta High School in Marietta, Georgia. He participated in the Entertainment track.

Jackson Fryburger, 17, is from Woodward Academy in Atlanta, Georgia. He participated in the Entertainment track.

AJ Dodd, 16, is from Kennesaw Mountain High School in Kennesaw, Georgia. He participated in the Entertainment track.

Izzy Avalos, 17, is from Winder Barrow High School in Winder, Georgia. She participated in the AD/PR track.

Ben Otten, 18, is from Alexander High School in Douglasville, Georgia. He participated in the Entertainment track.

Nena Alexander, 17, is from Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee, Georgia. She participated in the Entertainment track.

Maggie Hynes, 16, is from Marist High School in Oak Lawn, Illinois. She participated in the AD/PR track.

Scarlett Reicher, 17, is from Campolindo High School in Lafayette, California. She participated in the AD/PR track.

Rachel McBride, 15, is from North Clayton High School in College Park, Georgia. She participated in the AD/PR track.

Kelsey Henderson, 17, is from Westlake High School in East Point, Georgia. She participated in the Entertainment track.

Sarah Thaman, 16, is from Kirkwood High School in Kirkwood, Missouri. She participated in the AD/PR track.

Zoe Flores, 17, is from Parkview High School in Stone Mountain, Georgia. She participated in the AD/PR track.

Hunter Rensink, 17, is from Northgate High School in Sharpsburg, Georgia. He participated in the Entertainment track.

Caylee Cicero, 17, is from Starr’s Mill High School in Tyrone, Georgia. She participated in the AD/PR track.

Maia Eaton, 17, is from Our Lady of Mercy Catholic High School in Douglasville, Georgia. She participated in the Entertainment track.

Nikkia Bell, 16, is from Cedar Shoals High School in Athens, Georgia. She participated in the Journalism Website track.

Charlotte Luke, 16, is from Athens Academy in Athens, Georgia. She participated in the Journalism Website track.

Erin Stafford, 17, is from Paducah Tilghman High School in Paducah, Kentucky. She participated in the Journalism Website track.

Aryanna Russell, 15, is from Pebblebrook High School in Mableton, Georgia. She participated in the Journalism Website track.

Christian Galoppe, 15, is from Lassiter High School in Marietta, Georgia. He participated in the AD/PR track.

Summer Sampson, 17, is homeschooled in Birmingham, Alabama. She participated in the AD/PR track.

Mira Eashwaran, 15, is from Milton High School in Milton, Georgia. She participated in the Journalism Website track.

Anna Hicks, 16, is from Denmark High School in Alpharetta, Georgia. She participated in the Journalism Website track.

Sarah Clifton, 17, is from St. Scholastica Academy in Covington, Louisiana. She participated in the Journalism Website track.

Nate Walker, 17, is from Fitzgerald High School in Fitzgerald, Georgia. He participated in the Journalism Website track.

Jenna Lo, 17, is from George Walton Academy in Monroe, Georgia. She participated in the Journalism Website track.

Noah Monroe, 17, is from Concord High School in Concord, North Carolina. He participated in the Journalism Website track.

Jordan Owens, 17, is from Starr’s Mill High School in Fayetteville, Georgia. She participated in the Journalism Website track.

Sophie Ward, 17, is from Hanover High School in Ashland, Virginia. She participated in the Journalism Website track.

Lily Jorgensen, 17, is from Denver East High School in Denver, Colorado. She participated in the AD/PR track.

Sarah Thaman, 16, is from Kirkwood High School in Kirkwood, Missouri. She particpated in the AD/PR track.

Jackson Stone, 16, is from McIntosh High School in Peachtree City, Georgia. He participated in the Journalism Website track.

Gillian Brown, 16, is from James Madison High School in San Diego, California. She participated in the Journalism Broadcast track.

Jayla Brown, 17, is from The Galaway School in Mableton, Georgia. She participated in the Journalism Broadcast track.

Michael Howard, 17,  is from Chapel Hill High School in Douglasville, Georgia. He participated in the Journalism Broadcast track.