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SMC EXPRESS ONLINe

Article Guide

In Focus - A tip of the hat to investigative journalism, our In Focus section will target key issues affecting both school and society.

The Scrum - Reporting on all sporting matters with rugby taking centre-stage, but "propped" up by information on GAA, soccer, athletics, and other sports.

Around the School - For students, by students, about students. Articles about student life and experiences are covered in this section, written by all years, from 1st to 6th.

In the News - An essential for any news publication, this segment keeps you up to date on interesting stories both local and global.

Review Room - A popular segment for both our writers and readers (particularly in the current iteration); here we bring you our review team's opinions on movies, games and music.

Special Feature - The chameleon of our publication, our Special Feature section will bring you articles on all types of topics. If you can think of it, we can write it.

Teacher's Blog - Want a peek into the inner musings of editor-in-chief Mr. T. O'Connell? Scroll down and read subject-matter that wavers between the profound and the banal.

CONTENTS
  • Hong Kong: Onslaught Against Democracy
  • Evolution Of Hurling
  • 1:59
  • Irish Education System: A Debate
  • Kanye West: Profile
  • Joker: We Live In A Society
  • The Battle Of Verdun
  • On Junior Cycle Reform
Hong Kong: Onslaught Against Democracy

BY ARON CALVERT

In Focus

Over the Last few months Hong Kong has been a hot topic in the media and the situation on the ground seems to show no signs of easing up despite some within media moving on. Here I'll explore the history of Hong Kong to the recent protests and how the future looks for the country within a country

For years Hong Kong was a part of the United Kingdom this was due to an old agreement in which Hong Kong was leased to the UK from China. In 1997 the lease expired and so in an event known to history as the “Hong Kong Handover” China regained control over the island. Hong Kong was very culturally different from mainland China and any attempts to fully incorporate Hong Kong into China would surely fail due to this. The “One country, two systems” method of ruling was introduced. Under this Hong Kong would function much like a western democratic nation while officially a part of authoritarian Communist china.

Why Have the Protests Broken Out?

The protests are mainly due to a bill proposed by the Hong Kong government which would allow extradition of people in Hong Kong to mainland China. This means that people wanted for crimes in China that are currently living in Hong Kong could be sent to the mainland for trial. Most of the people in Hong Kong were opposed to this bill and so protests began to break out. The people of Hong Kong see it as an attempt from china to further increase their influence and control over the Islands. These protests began on March 31st when thousands took to the streets to protest the bill.

Escalation of the conflict

Following the protests Carrie Lam leader of Hong Kong doubled down on the bill and added amendments that directly stated that criminal suspects could be sent to mainland China for trial. This really kicked everything off. Tens of thousands took to the streets and marched on the government assembly building. Over the following few months tensions continued to rise with upwards of half a million people taking to the streets to protest on any given day. Violent clashes between law enforcement and protesters became a regular occurrence. These clashes led to the government completely scrapping the extradition bill. However, by this point the protests had come to be about so much more than the single bill. It had become a fight by the people of Hong Kong for freedom.

The Fight Continues

Hong Kong is due to be fully integrated into China in 2047. This deadline looms over the country like the sword of Damocles. The rights the people of the nation have enjoyed are soon due to be taken from them. The media has moved on, but the people of Hong Kong will continue to protest and continue their resistance away from the public eye. The Chinese government will continue to attempt to take greater control and those who know freedom will continue to defend it. Hong Kong will not go down without a fight and it will soon return to the news. The onslaught against democracy isn't over yet.

Evolution Of Hurling

by jamie o' connell

The Scrum

In this article I will be outlining the key changes in hurling throughout the game’s history.

The first ever game of hurling under the GAA rules was played in Boston in June of 1886. It is played with a piece of ash wood cut to the shape of a similar hockey stick shape. The shape of the hurley has changed throughout the decades and is now much thicker, stronger and very different from what the hurley began as. The sliotar (ball) used has also changed a lot. There have been many variations of the sliotar like rope, animal hair, wood and even hollow bronze. The constant changing of the sliotars and shape of the hurleys has slowly but surely changed the game of hurling.

Pace of the game

The pace of hurling has changed a lot throughout the decades. From watching the All Ireland Hurling Final from 1936, I realized the game of hurling was a lot slower. The ball didn't move as quick as it moves these days. This is partly due to the players hitting the sliotar on the ground more so than hitting it out of their hands. This meant the ball didn’t move as quick or go as far. The shape of the hurleys also constricted the players from getting the maximum distance when pucking the sliotar.

Player fitness and match preparations

Players years ago didn’t realize how important their health was. This led players to do things that are seem absurd to us now but were the norm back in the 1900s. This included smoking cigarettes at half time and before the match. Players also had pints before matches and often played while intoxicated. This was thought to help the players perform.

Rules and regulations

The biggest Rule change throughout the years is most definitely the rule that directed that all players must wear hurling helmets while playing. This rule was first brought in for underage hurling. It was proven that wearing helmets prevent 40% facial and eye injuries. The rule was only introduced in 2010 to all levels of the sport. The rule of 15 players per team hasn’t been changed since the foundation of the GAA. Here is an overview of some rules that have only been changed recently. When players are taking penalties they cannot pass the 20 meter line. They can place the ball up to 7 metres back from the 20 metre line to assure they don’t pass it. When penalties are been taken only one player, (the keeper) can be on the goal line.

All Ireland speeches

The tradition for the county that wins the All Ireland Final is the captain to give a speech in Irish to everyone there. During the 1980 All Ireland Hurling Final the Galway captain Joe Connolly spoke in Irish for nearly all of the speech. Since the decline of the Irish language in the 1990s and 2000s All Ireland final speeches are mostly spoken in English. Many speeches have only one or two sentences of Irish at most. This is a great pity and I think many would celebrate if more captains delivered their victorious speeches as Gaeilge.

1:59

By Vinnie Jones

In the News

This year in Vienna a new feat for humans was reached. The Kenyan long-distance runner Eluid Kipchoge managed to run 26.2 miles in 1:59:40.

Although the run doesn't count due to the marathon course, it really is incredible feat. To accomplish this Eliud Kipchoge had to run a little over 13 miles per hour. To show how incredible this is an average human male can run 6 miles per hour.

Kipchoge was assisted by a flock of 30 pacemakers. He also followed behind a pace car which emitted a green light to help keep time. This condition is not allowed by the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations).

Due to this, the record will not stand as an official world record. This did not stop the Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta from congratulating him on his amazing feat. He went to twitter to say some heart felt words, "Hearty congratulations @EliudKipchoge. You've done it, you've made history and made Kenya proud while at it. Your win today, will inspire tens of future generations to dream big and to aspire for greatness. We celebrate you and wish you God's blessings." - President Kenyatta

Eliud wore Nike ZoomX VaporFly runners. This was part of a project he was doing with Nike to try beat the 2 hour mark. To sum up the article Eliud Kipchoge sub 2 hour run was still an astonishing feat even if I didn't count as an official world record.

Below is the text of speech from one of our Debating Club members.
Irish Education System: A Debate

Around the School

Hello members of the opposition, proposition and audience, my name is Jack Norris and I’m here to propose that the Irish education system isn’t working. Along with my teammates Kilian, Cian and Fionn, our aim today is to convince you that the Irish education system is not fit for its purpose. In fact, I could argue that in its current form, it is broken and in need of much repair. The central problem that I will be addressing in this speech is the examination process in secondary schools and the stress and anxiety that it causes.

I want to offer an overview of exams and assessment in secondary schools today. The two main examinations, the Junior Certificate and the Senior/Leaving Certificate. Despite what the opposition may claim, are oust students are assessed by end of term exams. Yes, C.B.As and continuous assessment make up a part, but only a very small part, of our grades. Most of or testing and exams is done through the incredibly stressful and out of date terminal exams. If we look at the current Leaving Cert exam structure, there’s plenty of evidence to support our claim. To illustrate this point, let’s look at the current English paper. All an English student’s result boils down to is their performance over what amounts to 6 hours of wrist busting, stress inducing writing. Their entire grade is based on these two exams. Not only does this result in intense anxiety and pressure but placing an entire two years’ work upon one exam is surely madness.

Although many subjects may have CBAs as part of their exam, it will go up to a max of 25% of your exam but usually about 10%. We believe the CBAs should take up majority of your end of term exams. We would also like to ask you a question: what if you’re sick? Are you in support to give up some of your free time to come to your school on a day off?

We believe that our education system should be more like college, which is more reliant on continuous assessment. Interestingly, the Irish Times published an article about how the Leaving Cert is being changed to be changed, and I quote, “The Leaving Certificate is too narrowly focused on academic learning and is not suitable for students of varying abilities.” This line sums up perfectly the flaws of our current exam system

Thank you.

Kanye West: Profile

BY fionn MCKEOGH

Review Room

Kanye West was born Kanye Omari West on June 8th, 1977 in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. He moved to Chicago with his mother Donda West at the age of 3 after the divorce of his parents. His father Ray West was one of the first black photo-journalists at ‘The Atlanta Journal-Constitution' before becoming a Christian counsellor. His mother Donda was a professor of English and the Chair of the English Department at Chicago State University. Kanye moved to China with his mother at the age of 10, where she was teaching at Nanjing University as part of an exchange program. After graduating from high school, as the most unlikely to succeed according to his yearbook, West received a scholarship and attended Chicago’s American Academy of Arts in 1997 before transferring to Chicago State University to study English. He disliked his schedule as it slowed down his musical career. At the age of 20 he dropped out to pursue his full-time career in music.

The College Series

On the 23rd of October 2002 Kanye was involved in a car crash on his way home from the studio. This left him with a shattered jaw which was wired shut in reconstructive surgery. Two weeks after this incident Kanye recorded his first song ‘Through the Wire’. This was the first single off his debut project ‘The College Dropout’. This project was released on the 10th of February 2004 and including the hit song ‘Jesus Walks’. ‘The College Dropout’ (cover art pictured) accumulated over 441,000 copies in its first week of sales. The album is now sitting at 3 times platinum and received 2 grammies for ‘best rap album’ and ‘album of the year’. Next up for Kanye was ‘Late Registration’. West would invest over 2 million dollars into this next project. These funds came from the success of his first album and enabled him to hire a string orchestra. This album was heavily jazz inspired as most of the songs sample classic instruments. This album was released in fall of 2005 and would contain songs like ‘Gold Digger’ and ‘Heard ‘Em Say’. Late Registration sold over 2.3 million copies by the end of the year. The final piece to Kanye’s College puzzle was ‘Graduation’. An album that would enjoy major mainstream success and even defeat 50 Cent’s ‘Curtis’ in a sales battle between the two artists. ‘Graduation’ took a more electronic approach with the production and amazed fans with the mainstream hits such as ‘Stronger’ and ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing’. ‘Graduation’ would go onto sell 957,000 copies first week cementing himself as one of the most talented acts in music.

Heartbreak and Dark Fantasies

In November of 2007 Kanye’s world would take a dark turn with the sudden loss of his mother Donda West, who tragically died on the surgery table aged 58. This impacted Kanye heavily and things didn’t get better when his long-term engagement was ended with fiancée Alexis Phifer months later. These tragic events would consume Kanye in a deep depression which prompted him to create a clean album about loss and heartbreak. 808’s and Heartbreaks would become West’s most influential piece of work of his career at that point as he introduced the legendary 808 into rap music. Ye sings using autotune on the project recreating his sound entirely. He got help from Kid Cudi when creating the hooks and melodies for this album. This work contains themes of love, loneliness and heartache and was released on Thanksgiving weekend of 2008. The following year, controversy was on hand when Kanye interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Awards. West received severe backlash from this event and took himself to Italy for a short while before travelling to Hawaii where he would begin to record his next album. Here Ye would invite his favourite producers and artists to help him create one of the greatest works of art in music history. Kanye got everyone into the mood by spending every day with them before writing and recording in the studio. West often made other artists rewrite verses as he wanted them to exceed their full potential. This project would contain ‘Power’, one of West’s most mainstream and well produced songs of his career. He called his 5th album ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ and released it in late 2010.

Yeezus, Saint Pablo and Jesus Is King

Every great artist must experiment in their career and Kanye is no different. Yeezus’’ would open a new chapter to Ye’s discography with more aggressive and energetic flows and deliveries. Yeezus caused some controversy over song titles and topics, but this is nothing new to Kanye. Kanye handled the pressure of living up to MBDTF by releasing yet another #1 album, selling 327,000 copies first week. Kanye took the opposite approach with his next project ‘The Life Of Pablo’, laying more gospel style foundations. Although this album was delayed by up to 531 days, it was released on the 14th of February 2016 and included songs such as ‘Wolves’ and ‘Father Stretch My Hands pt1’. ‘Famous’ came with its own problems after Kanye namedropped Taylor, 7 years after their first altercation. Kanye hired a Taylor Swift lookalike for a music video that would gain over 40 million views on YouTube. Kanye featured 13 artists on this project and sold up to 94,000 copies first week.

Joker: We Live In A Society

By Jacub Szczerbaty

Review Room

We live in a society. And that’s what Joker is about: society. The 2019 film starring Joaquin Phoenix is, in my opinion, a masterpiece. The performance by Joaquin is terrifying yet relatable as he perfectly balances the line of being someone you should feel sorry for and someone who you find repulsive and grotesque. When you watch the movie you don’t see him, you see the character of Arthur Fleck slowly becoming the Joker. He gives the character so many idiosyncrasies, his most noticeable being the iconic Joker laugh. When Arthur laughs in this movie its incredibly painful to watch, it's almost as if it hurts him as after each laugh, he coughs and chokes. Joaquin transformed the laugh into something more, something that shows this character's pain and suffering. He adds a whole new layer to a character that can often be simplified into just “a crazy person”.

Apart from the great performances the cinematography is excellent. There are some very impressive wide shots in the movie that are begging to be framed and be put on a wall. But there are also close ups that are more personal and allow us to see how the characters are feeling. The lighting set design and colour pallet all complement each other and are used to portray this grimy, dirty, disgusting city. From the rubbish that’s everywhere, piled on the street, to the blue fluorescent light in the toilet that Joker dances in. The locations in this movie feel real and look dreadful yet also weirdly beautiful.

The music is also brilliant, and that includes both the original soundtrack and the licensed songs. There are some great licensed songs that weren't picked based on popularity, like in a lot of movies nowadays, but on how well they fit the movie. This includes the song Smile by Jimmy Durante, which is about smiling and being positive even in the worst times in your life. The use of the song is morbidly ironic as in the movie Arthur smiles through killing people and doing other horrible things, that he thinks are hilarious. It also shows how that advice isn't always helpful as sometimes being positive just isn't possible and “smiling through the pain” might do more harm than good. The OST was composed by Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir who also composed the score for Chernobyl, the HBO miniseries, and the movie Sicario: Day of soldado. Her score for Joker can only be described as haunting. She mixes classical instruments, mostly violin, with electronic sounds that create an atmosphere that is tense and sombre. It gives the whole movie a feeling of wrongness, like something is off but you can't quite tell why as the mix of the two styles of music feels unnatural and wrong, like the things that Arthur does in the film.

All these things make Joker a fantastic movie. But what I think really elevates its, is its themes and the subjects it tackles. Most prominently the subject of mental health and how responsible are we, as a society, for creating people like the Joker. It's an uncomfortable thought that we could influence such people by simply not paying enough attention to them, not giving them the help, they so clearly need or by just being mean to them.

Mental health is a big theme of this movie and the movie shows how cutting funding for institutions that help mentally ill people can have devastating consequences. Mental health still isn't taken seriously enough and is often ignored or even laughed at. We need to change our view of mental illness and mentally ill people and if we don’t then things like murder, shootings and abuse will keep rising exponentially. There were 340 mass shootings in 2018 in the U. S alone. Compare that to 1999 when there were only 5. While there are more factors to these rising numbers, I think mental health not being taken seriously is a big one.

It's ironic how the media are outraged at the Joker for existing, spreading mass panic that it will inspire mass shootings in cinemas worldwide. I say it's ironic because the media talking about shootings, especially school shootings, constantly and sensationalising the idea, in fact may inspire more shootings. By constantly talking about the shootings, trying to figure out the shooters' motives and “backstory” they're playing into the endless cycle of violence by giving the such people attention. What the media have missed is that this film is more than a film about gun violence - it is about bad decisions, parenting, mental health, and society at large.

In conclusion Joker is a very original and unique story with great writing, characters and performances. On top of that it has amazing cinematography and music that will take your breath away. Most importantly Joker is a movie that has something to say. A message that it will unapologetically preach no matter the backlash, because the people telling the story know its important. It's a risk that payed off not only financially but critically and it’s a movie I will return to many, many times.

The Battle of Verdun, 21 February-18 December 1916.

By James Hassett

Special Feature

The battle of Verdun was a battle fought between the German and French armies during World War one in and around the city of Verdun in North Eastern France.It was the longest battle of World War One and one of the most important battles in the First World War. It raged on for 10 months and the number of casualties was staggering.

It was originally planned by the German Chief of General Staff, Erich von Falkenhayn to secure victory for Germany on the Western Front. The aim was to crush the French army before the Allies grew in strength. Without France’s ninety-six divisions the Allies would be unable to continue fighting in the west. The Battle of Verdun would give rise to the famous saying in French “Ils ne passant pas”- They shall not pass.

To achieve his aim Falkenhayn needed to target a part of the French front that was strategic and was also of national pride. The ancient fortress city of Verdun was just such a place. Not only was it nestled in a bulge in the Western Front but also because it was steeped in political history. It had been amongst the last to fall during France’s humiliating defeat in 1870 – 71 war between France and Germany. Here he wanted France to “bleed white”.

Falkenhayn planned to use more than 1400 artillery pieces to destroy French units, whilst making limited use of German infantry to minimise his own casualties. At 4am on 21 February 1916 the battle began with a massive artillery bombardment and a steady advance by troops of the German Fifth Army under Crown Prince Wilhelm.

The first shells were fired at around 7am and reached the highest point at around 3 pm. There were over 1400 German cannons and guns used. The shelling and bombardment of Verdun lasted for over 5 uninterrupted days and the Germans used over 2.5 million shells and bombs during that time. Five days into the battle, the German infantry pressed forward and despite meeting strong French resistance, the German forces captured Fort Douaumont, the largest and highest of the 19 forts protecting Verdun

The battle appeared to be going in Germanys favour. French military leaders declared Verdun could not be held if the east bank of the river was lost and that French national morale would not survive the loss of the city.

At this point, however, the German Crown Prince and his troops stopped following Falkenhayn's plan and committed the Fifth Army to greater offensive action. The seizure of ground became the priority and by the end of February, German losses at Verdun were similar to the French casualties. A new French General, General Philippe Petain was then given command of the French Second Army at Verdun. He greatly increased the number of artillery pieces at Verdun, leading to the Germans suffering equally from constant shelling.

The ability of the French to sustain the battle was due to ammunition and supplies arriving along the 'Voie Sacree', the Scared Way, a single road into Verdun kept open despite constant German shelling. The already terrible battlefield conditions were made worse throughout March and April, as persistent rain turned the area into a sea of mud.

In late April, General Robert Nivelle took over French command from Petain and began large-scale counter attacks. This offered the Germans a chance to return to Falkenhayn's original plan, but by this time all sense his first plan, to wipe out the French army, was lost, replaced by a fixation to take Verdun. In early June the Germans took Fort Vaux after very tough fighting. This proved to be their final success. Efforts to continue the advance later that month failed, despite the use of gas.

Since the artillery left many bodies buried and their remains unidentifiable most of the bodies have been placed in Douamont Ossary a sobering memorial that contains the mixed bones of at least 130,000 French and German soldiers.

On 24 June, the Allied bombardment began on the Somme. The German offensive at Verdun was reduced in order to reinforce the Somme front. Nivelle seized his chance and attacked. Even so, the Germans were not prepared to give ground. Casualties rose as villages such as Fleury changed hands several times. There was also terrible fighting for the forts taken by the Germans earlier in the battle before these too fell to the French.

The battle finished on 18 December, as winter conditions and results of fighting on the Somme made further activity impossible. The French had lost 162,440 men and the Germans 143,000, which meant that over half a million men died in the battle of Verdun. Falkenhayn's plan to destroy the French army had failed.

O'Connell's Blog
On Junior Cycle Reform

What follows is an abridged version of a letter written by SMC Express' editor to various educational bodies discussing changes to the Irish education system.

Much of what I feel regarding the new JC is echoed in an article written by Colm O’Rourke in the Irish Independent recently. His piece highlights many of the shortcomings of the new JC and of the seeming illogic to so many aspects of changes being made to the old Junior Certificate programme. He communicates plainly the sense of frustration teachers are feeling as a result of reforms being introduced to the second-level education system.

Personally, I liken the new JC as the Irish Water of our education system. Though this is an imperfect analogy – what I am suggesting with this comparison is that the government have enacted changes to the system without the consent of the stakeholders involved. These changes have come about more through imposition than through genuine consultation.

Those voices of dissent against teachers will say: you oppose reform; you are afraid of change. This is not the case. As an English, history, and geography teacher I have had so many conversations, so many thoughts on how these subjects could be improved. Like so many of my colleagues, I welcome change, I welcome reform – but for the right reasons, and in the right way.

This then begs the question: how best should it be done? To explain fully would go beyond what I could even attempt to explain here; but what should not be done is how the new JC was formulated and how it is now being implemented. I appreciate that blue-sky thinking be part of a drive for change. But new key skills, new principles, statements of learning almost ad infinitum – where does the ambition stop and reality begin?

I have no doubt that of course there is some objective academia underpinning the new JC. I have no doubt that there are intelligent people working for the NCCA and the Department with the best intentions of developing a system worthwhile, a system worthy of praise. So the optimist in me believes that their endeavours must be misguided and ill-judged, rather than incompetent. But then I think of the following: common level business, common level geography, common level science, common level history – really? A higher level English paper that is now one 2 hour exam, that was previously two 2 and a half hour exams – come on!

On the one hand there is this intellectual “education speak” used to justify the changes and then a reality that is a kind of madness: an absurd new grading system; cumbersome continuous assessments – stress inducing rather than stress reducing – the inverse of what they should be; codifying wellbeing, as if it is something that previously was absent in the lives of students; and an obsession with critical thinking – I may sound cynical, but it has to be said that with the best will in the world – do 15 year olds have the agency to think critically? I do try to impart this skill to my students; in fact, it is kind of an underpinning philosophy I have as a teacher – trying to get students to think for themselves; but the simple truth it boils down to is so often not a self-reflective written piece by student X, but more often than not, the question, “sir, what am I supposed to write here?”

The new JC has launched a theoretical assault on content, on information, on “traditional” learning. It tries to indoctrinate us into thinking that the new JC “skills” are the holy grail of secondary education and that simple learning is moot, is archaic, and is perhaps even, without merit. If those crafting the new JC stopped and thought for a moment they would realise, school is about skills. Teamwork skills, improvisation skills, skills of taking responsibility and target setting. The branding of skills, such as the new JC has done, with fancy posters and colourful diagrams makes me sigh. We spend our teaching lives striving to empower our students to develop new skills, those not prescribed as diktats by the NCCA.

I have indeed filled out the consultation form for the LC review in the past few days. But that despairing part of me raises its head again remembering lines from an Eavan Boland poem, “…we are too late. We are always too late.”

Images sourced using Google. Videos sourced using YouTube.

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