Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Reason to Live and a Reason to Grow

It's been a while since I last posted here. Quite a while actually.

I've been so hesitant to openly express myself since the whole Carlynton clarification debacle, and it takes quite a bit of time for me to sit down and actually write outside the conventions of journalism and broadcasting and essays and the six other types of  writing we're expected to do in college.

So why now? I'm in a transition period. As I said in my kind-of-out-there letter from the editor this week, I've been so obsessed with the bookends of life that I sometimes forget that life is the culmination of a bunch of small turns and moments and interactions.

I've learned quite a bit this semester about my craft, about the world and about myself. I'm transitioning my way out of one of the wildest stretches professionally I've worked within: the job of Editor-in-Chief of the Globe.

I can't say I was surprised by the amount of work that went into it - it reminded me a lot of being Senior Patrol Leader mixed with the journalistic training that I've been working on in some way, shape or form since I was in fourth grade.

What I did find surprising, and perhaps this is my own naivety, was the mixture of ego and apathy that I encountered - both among writers (or lack thereof) and the editors. I hired some fantastic folks to edit the paper, and I feel like that showed this semester. However, an inherent apathy towards collaboration frustrated me to no end. I had huge plans going into this semester and for a plethora of reasons, those never came to fruition.

It seems things start getting bad for me personally in October. This October I started feeling the effects of taking on as many jobs as I had, and for the first time that I can remember, I met that feeling with an allowance to be human for once. Have my grades suffered? Probably. Do I mind? No, because I can't - unlike so many folks I've seen before me - say that I'm burned out.

Burning out is significantly different than being exhausted. I will readily admit that I am incredibly exhausted being a full-time student, full-time editor, part-time television producer, part-time studio technician and ten thousand other things I usually forget to list.

Being burned out is getting to a point where you no longer want to do what you do - and have no motivation to change that feeling. Being burned out is laying down and resigning yourself to mediocrity. Being burned out is handing yourself over to vices and distracting yourself from facing the reality that you don't have any motivation to continue.

At least that's my rough colloquial definition.

At this juncture in my life, I still want to be a journalist, but I feel far more confident in my ability as a producer than I do as a reporter. I feel far more confident in my ability to craft, manage, write and produce content like the WESA noise story and the Carnegie-Carnegie VPK than I do crack open some wildly investigative thing. That's not to say I can't do it (because I can and would like greatly to do so), that's to say that I feel most comfortable working within a news/feature genre. I digress.

I've learned that pretending to be a social person results in being asked the same question over and over. In high school you're asked what college you're planning on going to. As you start college people ask - and still do - what you're studying. If you're particularly unlucky, you get the question: so what are you going to do with that? I'm almost a year out from graduation, and let me tell you, the closer the months get the more nervous I am of what's on the horizon.

Lately, however, the question my friends have been asking me is if I will be involved with the Globe after my term as EiC. While it makes sense to ask, I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to be doing. That's a combination of choices by Emily Bennett (the next Editor) and me (I applied to be news editor because I love laying out pages). But, as Gregory Alan Isakov's song says, "Time Will Tell."

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

I've come to look for America...

I feel like the Simon and Garfunkel song they're currently using in Volkswagen commercials fits my bizarre mood at the moment - it reminds me of a wanderlust and paranoia that I don't actually possess but kind of want. Well, more the wanderlust than the paranoia but I digress.

It's been a while since I last wrote here. I've tried a few times to take a crack at writing again, and while journalistically I've been fairly successful, the personal writing that I used to have a good groove at I've gotten decidedly, well, rusty. So here's hoping that draft number 5 sticks!

I count myself incredibly lucky. As much as I despise long stretches of active travelling (being on a physical plane, bus or train for 6+ hours), I do really love to travel. I've been able to do a lot of that recently. I've been to Washington, D.C. twice (for inauguration-related things), New York City twice (WPPJ and the Globe),  Detroit, Michigan (the Globe) and most recently, Manchester England. 

I've learned an awful lot about travel and myself these past few months. For one: I don't much mind living out of a suitcase at this juncture. 

Also, if I travel with a camera I take a lot of pictures. Hundreds. Only about 10% of these ever see the light of day, and travelling more has built a backlog of images, but nonetheless they exist for me to mess with as I see fit. 

I don't remember how I got into photography, but I do know that I've been getting progressively better and smarter with it. I prefer landscapes to people (which shouldn't surprise anyone who knows me well) and I prefer vivid color and depth to brightness. 

There's a fine line between documenting a trip and actually experiencing that trip. There is no way to non-intrusively document a trip. For the most recent trip to England, I attempted to do so by isolating my intense photography to two days and keeping a personal audio recorder with me to record little things like the tramlines and the behind-the-scenes of a radio show.

I should probably explain why I was in Manchester. I was in a group of eight Point Park students (3 animation students, 5 broadcast students and 2 equally displaced and confused professors) and went to study radio in the UK as well as seek a cultural exchange. It was a ten day trip most noted by the outside for day 8 when some soulless fellow decided to detonate a bomb outside an Ariana Grande concert. 

I've said my peace in the media swarm that followed, and I maintain that I personally don't add anything to this story. To me, my 10 day stint in Manchester was a wonderful cultural exchange where I met some amazing people - like Tom Hinkley who works with Shock Radio, or Samantha Potter who was on a two week intensive with the BBC, or Geoff McQueen, a fascinating lecturer from Scotland who served as our general guide throughout the Manchester Experience. 

I consider myself incredibly lucky: I've been afforded the opportunity to travel to some amazing places for minimal expense (DC both times, NYC the second time, and Detroit were completely paid for by the University). I'm now working a summer job with Forsythe Mini Golf as well as at an internship with 90.5 WESA, Pittsburgh's NPR News Station. 

And I'm not satisfied, or remotely comfortable. Which I consider a blessing. A wise man once challenged me to get out of my comfort zone. Never too far, but far enough that it's something new. In that case, it was camping with the scouts. Which led to a New York City trip 8 years ago. And I have kept moving forward since. 

I have this philosophy on life wherein if I'm comfortable either I'm not trying hard enough or there's something amazing about to happen. 

I consider myself lucky: I've created two radio shows, a television show, planned four floor events as a resident educator, and a 50th anniversary event for a newspaper that I have no business heading just yet but am anyway. 

I start getting super introspective during the summer, because for once things slow down a little. I've always had trouble properly relaxing, but I feel like I'm getting a little better with that.

I'm not sure where I'm going next, but frankly I welcome that unknown. 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Let's See How Far We've Come 2016: The Year in Review

Here we've come to my annual tradition here, the year in review as marked by old Matchbox 20 lyrics. I did something similar, but with a lot more links, last year. This marks my fourth year in review post. The trouble with this year was that I didn't write all that much. On record, this is my weakest year since I began blogging in 2009: This is post number 8. Among my resolutions for the new year is to blog more.

So why did I miss so much this year? I was working like crazy in radio, television, print and online. My resume on my shiny new website is incredibly full and I did more work for my career than I did myself. That said I hope to work on some more passion projects moving forward: longforms for NewsNight, work with the Globe, and keeping some semblance of regularity here. So anyway, here goes nothing!

I rang in the new year with some friends and continued to work at the Post-Gazette until school started back midway through the month. I began a rather strange semester that included an art class (taught by an artist who refused to use anything except her own 35mm slide projector) and the dawn of my favorite radio project, On the Horizon. We also started airing Globe Live as a show co-hosted by then-Editor-in-Chief Josh Croup and I wherein we talked about what went in the paper.

February brought upgrades and changes. I interviewed and was subsequently selected as the Editor-Elect for the Globe. I also interviewed for a position as a Resident Educator (and yes it was the same day as the Editor-Elect interview). Later that month I had the opportunity to interview the one and only Rick Sebak after a screening at Point Park. I wrote a blog post about meeting Sebak and explaining the Editor Elect position back in February.

March brought with it a heck of a lot of meetings organizing my life according to my calendar. It also brought the celebration of Pittsburgh's bicentennial - which I am proud to say I covered as a one man band as one of the only college media there. March also began my foray into political coverage when Bernie Sanders came to Pittsburgh March 31. Sanders held a press conference prior to the rally, which I was able to attend. And that was pretty neat. To say that my first political coverage was thrilling is an understatement - for the first time I felt like real live reporter, and for once felt like I was impacting people's everyday.

When it rains, it pours. In April, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump came to Pittsburgh to rally prior to the April 26th primary. Those, too were interesting events - neither held a press conference. Clinton held her event in a gym and Trump held his in the Convention Center. Clinton's felt more like a fight against Donald Trump than Sanders (which was warranted to a degree, seeing as Clinton beat out Sanders in both Pennsylvania and nationwide) while Trump's felt like an odd pep rally. I turned 19 on the 15th in a very quiet weekend spent up north out of cellphone range because frankly that's the way to do it. April also brought along with it my (I think third?) trip to New York City. I rode a train up and wrote while I went. This time it was with Josh Croup for a conference held at the Harvard Club. Impressive, whirlwind tour and I loved most of it other than the Greyhound back in the sleet. And for once I have pictures up on my Flickr account.

May brought with it the end of my first year of college and the start of my first summer job - working as an intern at the Trib's digital trendy website thingy venture upgruv. May was, with little exception, boring. I drove to work, did work, returned. I got paid for what I did - scour the internet for what was #trending and occasionally build some cool dodads. It was too repetitive for my taste, but hey, that's how the "real world" works.

June was much the same as May. I got to go to a Pirates game with Lexus club seats (best seats I've probably ever had... except I prefer section 20. June also brought the Pens' fourth Stanley Cup title and our coverage of the parade. That win forged my miniature legacy at upgruv: the Stanley Cup tracker. I also got my first glimpse of the Center for Media Innovation.
Oh, and this:
I call it the prom picture

July was uneventful with exception to my trip to Westfield New York with family. It was a glorious adventure that involved lighthouses, treks through the woods, beaches, side trips, and some Tim Hortons doughnuts because why not. 

August began my sophomore year adventure. Unrelated to that, I finally got to see Coldplay live at the Consol Energy Center with my mother, aunt, and - strangely enough - Josh Croup. Shortly thereafter I began training to become a Resident Educator, and I took on a wild courseload. It also brought my two-cent clarification in defense of the Carlynton School District. I'm immensely proud of that argument and how it's held up. I'll continue to fight for education with perspective moving forward. Because it's important.

September is, as it usually is, when things started getting crazy. I went in search of the giant rubber duck, found it, watched it deflate and was sad about it. September brought with it also the start of what became Point Park NewsNight and the longform story we did on the Slippery Rock University/APSCUF strike. I have to say I'm immensely proud of the journalistic work we did. We had no guide or rule, we just made it happen. September also held the opening of the Point Park Center for Media Innovation, and I was able to interview Sarah Koenig. 

In October I went to a Penguins game, continued what became the semester from hell, and we debuted Point Park NewsNight. I changed my major from journalism to broadcast production and media management (one major) and declared journalism as my minor. I took a trip to Washington D.C. with some friends who head up Point Park media in an attempt to scope out places for the Inauguration. My October was incredibly busy for no particular reason. In one day I was able to interview both Attorney-General-Elect Josh Shapiro and his then-challenger John Rafferty for WPPJ. The feelings from April covering the election rallies all rushed back. 

November was dedicated to building the Election Show and its aftermath. I hosted what ended up being like 6 hours of live radio and appeared on television when I took a radio break. I did some voiceover work for Josh Croup that ended up being the main theme and intro to U-View's election coverage. So that was fun. I also started interviewing people for positions for the Spring staff of the Globe. November was also when it finally began to hit me just what I was taking on the Globe as its chief executive. November also brought with it an interview with Diane Rehm, perhaps my favorite high-profile conversation to date. 

In December we learned our interview with Sarah Koenig made us finalists for an award from the Intercollegiate Broadcast Service. It brought the end to the semester from hell, a semester I somehow managed a 3.79 GPA. Cumulatively I have a 3.84 - but who's counting? I ever so quietly attended a wonderful Straight No Chaser concert at the Benedum with my mother. December brought some work with the Post-Gazette rounding out the year's basketball tournaments. December was when things started to quiet down and the transition at the Globe began to take its full effect. In December I slowed my 120 miles per hour year to a more manageable 60 or so...

I didn't write a Christmas letter this year - I stayed a week longer than I had last year and this year I had to close down the dorms. It got me thinking a lot about what's next - frankly this whole break has got me thinking about what's next. I know it's kind of ridiculous, even with the body of work and speed with which I've approached everything, but I can't help but look even further. I graduate in two years (which is honestly quite terrifying). 

I'm excited for the future honestly and truly, and what 2017 will bring. It will bring a whole new start to some things (like my reign of terror on the Globe and the start of working towards a new major) and the evolution of others (we're rebooting NewsNight and reinventing On the Horizon as a podcast). Things are exciting and weird and uncomfortable and all at once wonderful. 

People have been complaining that 2016  was a horrid year. And yes, if you only look at political leaders and celebrity deaths it hasn't been the best - but in so many ways it's been a wonderful year. There's a great (albeit corny and sappy) quote floating out there that states an arrow can only be launched by first pulling back. So yeah, this has been a 5 steps forward 3 steps back kind of year. But progress still happens and I can't wait to see what this new year brings. 

So here's to you and yours - have a happy, peaceful and pleasant new year! Go fight win!

Friday, December 30, 2016


[I realized shortly after posting this that I had a prime opportunity to call this To Everything: Turn, Turn... but apparently my memory for using songs as blog titles is not as spry as I thought]

It's been a while since I last posted. To be completely frank, I'm not sure who I'm writing to here. Not that I was writing to anyone in the first place, but for a while there I had a fairly consistent gig going.

I've been thinking a lot about transitions. Naturally so, I guess: come January we'll have a new president, come June my brother will graduate high school, and on a hyperlocal note, January 1st I begin my term as editor-in-chief of the Point Park Globe.

With the passage of time go, sometimes unnoticed but other times not, smaller, minute changes. For example, this being the first Christmas in memory that we not only left our house for family up north, but also that Christmas felt a bit more sentimental and a bit less - dare I say - magical.

Here's what I mean by this: we had to plan out our 25th. My brother had decided to work early on Boxing Day, so out outing had to be brief. Our aunt and uncle didn't come over because, well, reasons. Here's what I'm getting at: This is the first Christmas in which I truly felt like a full on adult. Not that I personally did anything (in fact I royally messed up and forgot to get anyone anything for Christmas. I only sent out my annual Christmas cards.).

I'm coming to grips with the world fully treating me like an adult, and frankly I don't like it. It's almost as if in the past year a switch flipped and people started taking me seriously. And I know I've been wanting exactly this for some number of years now, but I felt comfortable resigning myself as someone who has had to, for lack of a better way of putting it, prove themselves time and time again.

Let me be clear on something: I still feel that need to prove myself as an Editor and as someone attempting to "do it all," but I feel like for the first time in a long time I've met less resistance on the other side on that.

I'm not sure how I feel about it. Usually here I just rant about things I dislike, but this is something I'm quietly trying to sort out for myself. I say quietly because if I do it too loud, the folks around me look to help. Not that I don't like that, but it's this weird balance where if I ask for help, I'm cashing in one of those hint things to get ahead. It's not entirely logical but it's my dumb up-by-the-bootstraps mentality - mixed with a heck of a lot of stubborn Serbian blood.

Today I embarked on one of our quiet, annual traditions - I meet up with three guys I was in scouts with and we wander through the woods of Settlers Cabin Park. The hike today trekked for about 5 miles, and we realized just how out of shape #collegelife has left us. We've changed since we first did this last year (and since we were last all in scouts together), but honestly it's always good to catch up with folks who share a unique experience - and are willing to organize.

I've always found a warped solace in wicked winter weather. I don't like bundling up in some ridiculous amount of layers, but I do enjoy (and that may be my own twisted self view) just how quiet it is out there. With 27 degree and snowing, we were the only ones in the park other than some wayward deer.

The wind whistled through the barren trees with whispers unlike anything I've heard, making the branches clank against one another. We saw a frozen lake barren but for some cattails on the shoreline. It was nice, it was quiet, and I couldn't shake the feeling of not only how small I was but also how this wilderness (surrounded by formless subdivisions and office complexes) was owned by us in that moment. And how for once, this world was ours.

I like the outdoors for that reason: there's at once a freeing feeling, at another point a superiority all the while a humility overwhelms you. The woods aren't alive in a traditional sense - life flocks to it. I enjoyed catching up and for once (for the first time since August) becoming one with nature. And yeah that's hokey but it's true.

I have to then say that for as much uncertainty that lies ahead - there was always uncertainty. We write our own futures and shall continue to do so. We transition always, for we are alive. Without seasons giving way there is no turning and without catalysts there is no progress.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Hello World. It's me, Alex.

So last time I posted here it got, well, heavy. I can't say I was told to post what I had posted, but I can say that I felt severely judged in the wake of the original post so I was motivated to write something to counter it. The original narrative was that I was trying to save a job but to be frank, other than some individuals the district didn't bat an eye. But I still wrote a piece I completely stand behind. That piece just happened to end up being ridiculously long.

That aside, I stand behind what I say. But I do have to say, I spent a week writing that and have been incredibly hesitant to post here since. Being careful about every written word is draining when all you started with was a hobby. Frankly, I haven't done that for that reason exactly. That and the fact that I haven't had a lot of free time.

I don't want too much of a following. I write this stuff for the 3 or 5 people who care what I personally have to think, and I've let some stupidity get in the way of that. So here's what the past several months have been like:

It's been nearly half a year. In that time, I began a job as an RE, resumed my job at the Globe, visited Washington D.C., hosted a radio election night show, interviewed Sarah Koenig, John Rafferty, Josh Shapiro and Diane Rehm, and no doubt have done some other things I'm forgetting.

I feel like it's my senior year again, you know? Running a thousand miles and hour and everything at once feels like it's on fire. And if I've learned anything this semester, it's that it's completely okay to have everything be on fire, as long as you yourself are not actively on fire.

What I mean by that: your grades don't have to be stellar, you don't have to be producing the best journalistic work of your life, you don't have to be producing a lot of journalistic work at once as long as you can keep yourself going. As long as you can keep yourself able to do that work.

I've also been in the process of transitioning myself and the Globe around me for the new semester. I have an incredibly tough act to follow in Josh Croup. He's made a good person to shadow but the expectations with an all-star staff have produced something unlike anything I've hoped to see.

This past Monday was the last layout meeting of the Chief Josh Croup era. And sure, people were sad and moping but I was sitting in the corner uneasy for what this next year holds.

You see, I'm an incredibly nervous person - not for any particular reason, it's just within my countenance to be so. I'm incredibly confident in the staff I've assembled and I think they're going to do a bang-up job bringing enthusiasm and grace to this paper. But there are unspoken pressures that we work through: in 50 years we've never once unintentionally missed an issue. More than half of my section editing team have not been section editors before.

That all said, I need only look a year back - there was no way in hell I should have been a news editor. A freshman? Come on. Let alone Editor-Elect. But I got there because I decided to take on a challenge. And I feel like if nothing else, that's what I can bring to the table here: don't psych yourself out because of a challenge looming ahead.

Reading that back it sounds awfully prophetic and deep, but the universality of the statement holds. Either that, or the fact I'm running on like 4 hours of sleep is getting to me.

I have no business being here, but honestly who ever does? I presented my relatively finalized portfolio - (yes that is a thing) - to my class and I surprised myself at the sheer volume and variety of work that I've done. I think the best thing to do in a situation is to not think too much about the perspective of that data point - what do I mean? Here:

Imagine you're afraid of heights. You're on a vacation with your family and they want to go to, I don't know, some mountain somewhere. You want to tell them no because of the whole heights thing, but at the same time you can't easily get out of this one. So what do you do? You just start driving. If you think too much about where you are in relation to the top of the mountain you may lose focus driving or you may stop - all bad ideas climbing a mountain. And eventually you make it to the top or some stopping point and you look around and it's beautiful - just don't think about the height it took to get you there.

I'm at a stopping point here - I'm not at the top of the mountain by any means and I hope I never am. I am, however, required every semester to take a break and look around.

Before me is an amazingly steep climb. I look forward to it with a slight weariness but an abundant amount of optimism, enthusiasm and excitement for what lay beyond the top.

And so this is finals week. I'm running on an average of 4 hours of sleep per night. My regrets are named procrastination and lack of published Globe work. Amongst others, my new semesters' resolution is to write more, take care of myself more and keep moving forward.

So we'll see. If I'm lazy, the next post will be either the year in review or my first letter from the editor as Editor-in-Chief. That's incredibly strange to say, by the way. Considering the amount of editors before me, that I get to do the 50th anniversary year and that I get to wear the title "Chief." I'm going to up the ante on writing simply to keep outside my own head.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

My two cent clarification: In defense of Carlynton High School and Small Education

Hang on, this is going to be a long one.

A warning: the following is an opinion. As a journalist, I don’t like having those. Understand that opinions change and evolve as time does, and please respect the place I was coming from whilst writing this. Also I use Oxford commas, don’t judge me. I do not advocate for any candidate or particular legislation or anything beyond dialogue. Want that to be clear before I proceed.

So last week I shared a post from a Carlynton alum that I attached some comments to. I was under the impression that the commentary was an assessment of the district I graduated from in the aim of opening a dialogue on the faults in the education system as a whole.

Boy was I wrong.

I completely own up to sharing it, and further to misrepresenting a blanket approval from me of this statement with added commentary. I thought it was (and, full disclosure, I didn’t read the whole thing that late at night) an attempt to open dialogue and I shared to push further the reach of that dialogue. I also did it as a way to promote someone I felt at the time should be heard by my reach. I recognize that the alum can stand behind what was said as an opinion, but I want to make it clear: that opinion expressed in the piece isn’t mine.

The fact of the matter is when you share across your stage or your platforms, the assumption is that anything you further share you agree with. I need to add the whole “RTs do not equal endorsements” bit to my Twitter for this reason, but I’m not here to preach about social media, I’m here to preach about what my views are on the education system and what I meant to say originally.

I graduated two years ago from the Carlynton School District. If you’re fairly new to my adventures, the Carlynton School District is a tiny (and I mean tiny – my graduating class was 92 strong) school district five miles outside Downtown Pittsburgh. I’m currently pursuing a B.A. Journalism degree at Point Park University, a subject I consider a passion and a school I consider the best decision I’ve made.

The original alum commented on apathy at my alma mater and said quite bluntly (and quoting an unnamed source) that “this place is a disease.” I won’t argue that apathy exists within the education system but I have to argue that the source misidentified the problem. This place – being Carlynton High School – is not the disease. It has the disease that comes along with being (against its own will) a part of a governmental system that puts numbers ahead of people and tests ahead of education.

I’ve said for years privately that the strength of the Carlynton School District lies in its faculty and students. Teachers (and I’m dear friends with some education majors, I count them here also) don’t get into such a cutthroat business without a passion or a drive to accomplish something greater. It’s a drive to change what they experienced, or to provide something greater than themselves to their students. If you don’t have a drive to change it or to affect some sort of change, you’re not going to last in education long. You. Burn. Out.

I want to challenge the original poster to think about what honestly was said: was the lack of challenge you described you had experienced your senior year a result of climbing an academic pinnacle as I had, or was it because of a chosen apathy on the part of the participant? You said you chose against taking Advanced Placement yet expected the same level challenge at a general level class, what did you expect? I am genuinely curious.

I’m not going to lie, by my senior year I wanted to get out of Carlynton but that was because by that point I felt I had outgrown it and I had a taste of the real world and college life and wanted to move forward beyond the K-12 system. It’s a system that I strongly believe is designed that way for a reason so you can make a clean cut when you walk across that stage and be ready mentally to take on the next step, whatever you determined that to be.

If I didn’t feel challenged in the classroom, I did this potentially self-destructive thing I do in college where I get CRAZY involved with stuff to challenge me further in a way outside the classroom and to challenge the ways I think and the means by which I communicate. I’m not saying it’s the best way of doing things, but I will say that the challenges I didn’t find in a classroom I found elsewhere through in-class resources.

I want to step back for a moment and talk about resources. Carlynton doesn’t have many because, well, it’s tiny and is not the wealthiest district. But isn’t that a shame to say? I mean, seriously. Should size even matter when you talk about resources for students? Why does the per-student cost to educate vary from district to district and why should resources be tied to standardized testing?

Further, why are we allocating resources with preference to certain groups? It’s a television trope to have schools buy new equipment every year for a football team while the band uses decades-old instruments. I’m not saying that is true within Carlynton, but I have heard stories along these lines at other schools.

Also, why is the education system still structured in the way it was during the Enlightenment where local government meant something? It makes NO sense to penalize a district’s funding because of standardized test results, frankly those that struggle should be given MORE resources to bring them up to speed in my humble opinion.

Single A designation should not be a death sentence, nor should it inspire any sort of victim situation. It doesn’t at Carlynton (with the only exception I can think of being an oddly specific school board meeting in 2013 or 2014 where the justification by the superintendent for class scheduling problems was “well, we’re a single-A school, you’re lucky you get to have electives) but I know it’s true in some other districts. Being small means more individualized and community-based education.

Parents pick a school for its resources, and I’m proud to say my family found a district whose nonphysical resources (teachers, programs, etc.) are incredibly abundant. We have fall plays and spring musicals and 19 sports. How could a school of less than a thousand do it except by having people who care and others who can stretch a dollar?

Am I saying Carlynton fell behind? No.

What I am saying is that as a whole the education system has fallen behind. Money that could have gone towards offering unique electives and challenging students’ ways of thinking is instead going toward mandated remediation on testing, diagnostic programs, and compliance with further regulated yet seemingly innumerable and indistinguishable revenue-sucking mandates. It’s not the Carlynton School Board or the principal deciding this, it’s someone at the federal and state level telling these people they have to.

Do you know how often I was given diagnostic testing ahead of the Keystone or PSSA exams? Nearly monthly. Imagine, that’s at least 10 days outside of the classroom every year. Don’t forget, several of these tests were multi-day, and you had to do some sort of buildup prep to the diagnostics, and then the build up to those tests...

This testing obsession is classroom time spent chasing your tail in an effort to save the school that you’re being set aside from. It’s circular and so, so wrong. And let’s not forget those diagnostic tests are expensive to use, and could go to, I don’t know, journalism books, or psychology books?

So where am I going with this? It’s no myth that the education system is broken (at least by my assessment) but it is a myth that the individual district is to blame. Do you feel trapped? Good, it’s the system that got you to the point where you can realize it. Challenge that system.

I was reminded recently that the successes I’ve had and the career I’ve chosen didn’t come from the classroom. I never once took a journalism class, and it wasn’t for lack of trying either. The teacher of the journalism course did pull me aside at one point and told me I wouldn’t have benefitted from the curriculum. Why? In part, it was out of date books and a lack of resources to do real journalism. But at the end of the day, it’s important to remember this positive: my love of radio stemmed from a gifted education teacher passing along the information for a program at WYEP.

Yeah, Carlynton didn’t teach me a lede from a nut graph but can you seriously blame the high school for that? There should be no reasonable expectation that every profession should have an offered elective that prepares you for that individual, specialized profession. It’s unreasonable.

What Carlynton did offer me was the access to that gifted teacher who shared the WYEP project, or to that band director who let me try my hand at announcing, or that English teacher who (and I still don’t understand how this happened) let me run a newspaper as a high school senior or the drama teacher who rescued me from hating theater after a bad experience and let me anchor the TV morning announcements after being a technical director there, and I could go on but hopefully you get the point.

Was I saying to myself junior year “dang I wish I could drop out and move on to college”? Of course. What teenager wants to be a cog in a politicized state-level machine that hasn’t been working well?

But why do you stick around? Two key reasons in my case: because your end goal is a diploma so you can keep moving on to that liberal arts school in the city, and you stay out of respect for how you came to that conclusion.

The reason you want to leave high school in the first place is because you discovered the ‘real world’ a teacher on the inside helped share with you. In other words, you can’t realistically wish to be a part of a different world if you had never heard of that other world in the first place.

So what was draining about Carlynton? The public school system. The helplessness you feel on a daily basis where the decisions are made for you in either a board meeting or some faraway marble castle in Harrisburg. It’s not some sort of deeply engrained lackadaisical work ethic in the teachers or administrative support staff, it’s an apathy at the extreme top that trickles its way down to resources at the feet of those who truly care.

If Carlynton didn’t challenge you, it’s you that failed. Not because it was supposed to consistently hit you with ridiculous workloads or whatever effort you expected of it but because you didn’t seek more. In the real world, people don’t work with you or for you. You have to seek out your own challenges or support for what it is you’re trying to do.

It’s a lesson I feel this alum missed. By choosing to enter and remain in this supposedly toxic environment (read: it isn’t) then complaining afterwards it didn’t help you, apparently you hadn’t sought those challenges out through the system? I don’t know, I can only guess your position, but from mine I feel like there is some action on the participant’s part that is missing here.

I know this much, however: the reason I got where I am is I sought out and sucked up every opportunity I could inside and outside the classroom. There isn’t any professor who asks you to become Editor-in-Chief of your campus newspaper your freshman year. It’s Josh Croup and your friends who you’ve surrounded yourself with who convince you to take that leap. It’s the professor who tells you you shouldn’t be doing it.

This is probably the longest post I’ve written in a long while but I wanted to make this incredibly clear: I can’t endorse the notion that Carlynton is some sort of wretched wasteland where dreams go to die or whatever yarn that you want to spin. It’s a wonderful place where teachers do the best they can with what they have. It’s a place where you have to find your own path because that’s how the real world works. It’s a place where you have to seek a challenge, you can’t expect it to be served to you because that’s not how the world works.

If there’s a problem, it’s the lack of resources allotted to these base-level programs because of a flawed administrative/governmental system. I’m not endorsing anarchy, I just want to start a responsible dialogue. Comment if you’d like, I only delete straight profanity.