Music: The Perfect Study Tool 

Vera Naines (’25) explores how music impacts our focus and study habits. “The human brain, in some sense, is an enigma. There are tons of ins and outs to enhance its performance, and music is one of them.”

Recently, I’ve been doing a fair amount of studying due to the quickly approaching finals. I go downtown, make my way to a campus study spot, put headphones on, and get to work. I look up to view the people around me and notice something we all have in common: we’re listening to music. This made me wonder… is there a deeper reason why so many students listen to music while working? Turns out there is, and it has all to do with our brains and how they function. 

As you might know, sound travels as soundwaves. When these hit our eardrums, the vibrations are turned into electrical signals by the tens of thousands of nerve endings in our ears. These signals then travel to the brain which has to do a lot of work to interpret them. This is where the magic happens. Music is great for studying because it turns on parts of the brain that might have been dormant. It also has different effects in each part of the brain. For example, when you listen to music, the nucleus accumbens releases dopamine. Nucleus accumbensis the part of your brain responsible for turning motivation into action. In fact, music is a form of treatment for ADHD, which is partly characterized by lack of dopamine, because of its ability to release it.  Dopamine is so important because it makes you happy. This improves creativity by broadening your mindset and increasing the desire to explore. Music also stimulates the secretion of adrenaline, serotonin, and other hormones responsible for upping levels of energy and mental focus. Plants have even been shown to have better growth when exposed to classical music!

Music can and should be used to help your brain promote and sustain productivity. The only question is what type of music to listen to. Different types of music do different things, so you can pick and choose the genre for what you want it to do. Listening to music you might have listened to long ago can help bring back memories. Listening to happy music increases divergent thinking. In terms of studying, though, there are some types that rise above the rest. Anything with no lyrics works best as to not distract you with meanings. Slow blues and jazz are great for this reason, and because they enhance alertness and creativity as the tune changes unexpectedly. However, classical music is, in my opinion, the best. It has all of the positive effects previously mentioned, plus a decrease in stress due to the calming effect of it. Generally, no matter what music, it is important to keep the volume at the right level so it doesn’t drown your thoughts, but it still blocks background noise. 

The human brain, in some sense, is an enigma. There are tons of ins and outs to enhance its performance, and music is one of them. So next time you find yourself studying, try it out. Put on some tunes, and feel the power for yourself.

The Importance of Atomic Habits

Rachel Hardy (’24) reflects on the book Atomic Habits by James Clear and how its advice applies to writing. “It’s important to see that atomic habits are what makes us, us. It’s what determines how we live, what we do day to day, and how we carry ourselves.”

“Tiny changes, remarkable results an easy way & proven way to build good habits & break bad ones.” – James Clear

 Intellectually, I’ve been reading on expanding my knowledge as well as growing upon building new habits and breaking old ones. Atomic Habits was my first book that opened my eyes and interested me. It was the first book I read through, and I liked how the author touched on  “habit stacking” that increases the likelihood of sticking with a habit by stacking your new behavior on top of an old one. And the two-minute rule that encounters any habit that can be scaled down into a two-minute version. Not only does atomic habits attract personal life but also to writing.

As we write as individuals our first or second piece won’t be the best one we have made, our writing takes time and effort, trial and error. As we progress over the years or even months the regular practice of writing helps us encounter our writing to become better and stronger each day. But as we might fail each time the expansion of atomic habits overgrows as we break our bad “writing” habits and turn them into good ones. As I sit here today I came a long way from my atomic habits, at first I didn’t see myself as a good writer! I just wrote for fun because it was something to do during quarantine. As the first year back at school, which was when I was in 10th grade, I was in history class as my teacher recommended I should be in the Writing Center. I was amazed! As I thought it was just for fun; someone saw something in me that I didn’t. I never underestimated myself but I never saw it as something I would do or be  “good” at. Now that I look at it, the practice of writing during quarantine, those tiny changes made major changes as I got myself into the writing center, wrote meaningful poems, etc. Now that I’m in 11th grade I see my potential and my work that my teacher saw in me, of course I have a lot to accomplish as I want to become a better writer. But, I made it this far. That came a lot with my mindset and my knowledge.

 My mindset wasn’t as it was when I was in 9th grade. It took a lot to be where I am now, and that comes with positives and negatives, a lot of life lessons, and tears. Writing helped me to a great extent but something was still missing as I tried to put my pieces back together again. I still haven’t found the cure although I made accomplishments that my younger self would be proud of. Mindset and knowledge come hand in hand. Those two analogies I concurred to build better relationships, and move on from ones I didn’t want to. As well as overachieving in my writing and changing my personality in a way. You would think what I wrote were all good and positive things, however they have deep meanings behind them that I had to let go of that I never thought I would. It turned into a type of new person that I somewhat like but at times I wish I had the old one back.

 As quoted “An atomic habit is a regular practice or routine that is not only small and easy to do but is also the source of incredible power; a component of the system of compound growth.” I have an interest in atomic habits because it shows the overcoming of decisions or routines that necessarily won’t work out in your life or anyone’s life in general. Such as smoking, and checking your phone first as you wake up. As we mature we see the disadvantages that don’t help us grow but only degrade us. It’s important to see that atomic habits are what makes us, us. It’s what determines how we live, what we do day to day, and how we carry ourselves. As  my blog post is about to end, it is superior to know the 4 laws for building/ breaking habits number one, cue, number two, Craving, number three, Response, number four, Reward. As we develop over the years in our writing or personal entities, instead of making it invisible make it obvious, make it attractive rather than making it unattractive. 

There are many adjustments to correlate your daily habits, but as you figure out your best routine the important thing is to stick to it and keep going to become better. Yes, there will still be mistakes and the feeling of giving up. Nevertheless, it happens to the best of us! What makes you stronger and the best you is that you didn’t give up, you didn’t go back to the bad habits that made you someone you didn’t like. That you didn’t want to be shown to others. This interpretation shows the importance of atomic habits.

Shakespeare Is So Last Season

Bella Simonte (’23) advocates for an updated approach to literature study in English classes. “Inaccessible language and misogynistic views are so last season. Teaching kids how to be contributing members of society is the new hot trend.”

Duels, poisoning your step-son, and marrying your mother are all wildly unrealistic tales told in Shakespeare’s plays. Made of too much confusing language, misogynistic themes, and not enough racial or cultural diversity, Shakespeare has passed its expiration date. 

Regular texts can be taxing enough on people with learning comprehension disabilities. When dead language and syntax like ones commonly found in Shakespeare get added in, it makes reading and processing the information much harder. In most classrooms, roles are assigned to students, forcing them to read each soliloquy aloud in front of the class. Reading for some is hard enough, let alone having to do it in a room full of people. 

Contrary to the 1500s, Shakespeare’s plot lines are no longer relevant nor politically correct. In books like Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet, women are treated as ownable, easily manipulated pieces in someone else’s grand scheme. English teachers prefacing the book with, “now this was made in a time where this was commonplace,” doesn’t make the story any less sexist or any more normalized. 

Some teachers would argue schools teach Shakespeare because of its key themes. However, these plot lines aren’t relatable to a modern day audience and shouldn’t be what schools focus on teaching their youth. Kids should be learning about current issues like racism, sexism, government power, wealth inequality, and other cultures. Shakespearean plays were made to be entertainment, not course material. Whatever themes and lessons that were applicable in the 1500s, are definitely not applicable now. 

Some better alternatives would be Just Mercy, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, and Into the Wild. Each book has lessons that teach readers how to better understand people who are different from them by diving into race, abilities, and economic status. 

Technology, architecture, and cars are evolving with a world of ever changing dynamics, as should our school curriculum. Inaccessible language and misogynistic views are so last season. Teaching kids how to be contributing members of society is the new hot trend. 

Academic Validation: The Issues with a Single Measure of Intelligence

Olivia Palmbos (’23) writes a timely piece on academic validation. “Academic validation, stemming from a need to feel validated in one’s intelligence based on academic success, is a surprisingly normalized occurrence in our society that can warp into a toxic mindset under the wrong pretense.”

As October fades into November and fall settles into winter, the Skyline student body adjusts once again to a new academic year. Projects and testing in classes are beginning to escalate, and, unsurprisingly, grades are starting to flood PowerSchool in anticipation of the end of Trimester 1. As the old patterns of academia return, so do old habits, including the age-old mindset of academic validation – an indulgence that even I find myself falling prey to. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a notification for a good grade popping up in the gradebook…and nothing more distressing than seeing a notification for a bad one.

Academic validation, stemming from a need to feel validated in one’s intelligence based on academic success, is a surprisingly normalized occurrence in our society that can warp into a toxic mindset under the wrong pretenses. As easy as it is to fall into an unhealthy mindset of academic validation, it is critical to remember that grades, no matter how important they may seem, are not an accurate measure of intelligence. Too frequently, the concept of intelligence is measured on a single standard. Grades, SAT scores, or GPA are often misconstrued to be an indication of how “smart” an individual is, stemming from a misguided and singular conception of intelligence. In fact, according to an article from CNBC citing the studies of esteemed Harvard psychology professor Howard Gardner, there is not one definition of intelligence, but rather eight: spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, linguistic, logical-mathematical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic intelligence. These newfound definitions of intelligence span beyond tests and quizzes, and cover a spectrum of talents that are not represented in a grading atmosphere. From artistic prowess and a knack for musical rhythm, to an innate understanding of community and self, Gardner acknowledges that intelligence cannot be summed up in a number or letter grade. Rather, intelligence is wonderfully diverse, and can be displayed in a host of different ways, incapable of being measured by a single unit. Although there are more than eight different types of intelligence, studies show that only one type of intelligence is emphasized in the education system, specifically when it comes to grading and assessments: logical-mathematical intelligence. In other words, grading represents one eighth of all natural intelligences, rendering it an inadequate measure of how “smart” a student is. Tests don’t demonstrate a student’s skill, but rather their skill set within one area of expertise. We, as both a student body and academic establishment, need to move away from this faulty definition of intelligence, and instead towards a wider representation of intelligence within the school community.

This is not to say, however, that taking pride in one’s grades is a bad thing. Often, working hard on an assignment and seeing payoff in the grade received can be affirming and uplifting. However, what is important to remember is not to stake one’s worth on academic validation. Grades cannot, and will not, provide an accurate representation  of the diversity of  intelligences in a student body, nor one’s worth as a person. 

The Sexism Hidden Within Common Tradition: What would you do?

Lily Carlson (’23) examines the sexism embedded in some of our traditions. “On one hand, it is important to fight these systematically rooted problems by creating change. But on the other hand, these are long-lasting traditions that are a part of the ‘perfect’ wedding ideal.”

A few weeks ago, I attended my cousin’s wedding in Fishers, Indiana. This was my first time going to a wedding so I was teeming with excitement, just waiting for the weekend to arrive.  I watched a beautiful ceremony set at golden hour, and all I could think about was how happy I was for my cousin. After the ceremony, we ventured over to a large building for the reception dinner. I was looking up, admiring the beautiful, barn-inspired room when I overheard my other cousins having a conversation about the reception. “I can’t believe they used all of that old, traditional wedding language,” one said. “I know right, like are we in the 1950’s?” The other rhetorically questioned. 

This sparked a completely new idea in my head, something I had never even thought about before. When I listened to the ceremony, I didn’t pay attention to all the specific phrases that they used. For example, “I promise to love, honor, and obey.” Only the bride has to say the “obey” part, not the husband. Also, think about the tradition of the father “giving the bride away” to the groom. Most people just see this as a beautiful moment of the father and bride walking down the aisle together. Which yes, it is, but it also signifies that a woman is always under the control of a man. As well, “Man and Wife” labels men just as they are, but women as an extension of said man. There is so much more hidden sexism through things as inconspicuous as the dress, the positioning of the groom and bride, etc.

All of these new realizations sparked a debate I had with myself: Should people change and modernize the language in their weddings? Or should people just keep things as they are, because it is tradition, after all. On one hand, it is important to fight these systematically rooted problems by creating change. But on the other hand, these are long-lasting traditions that are a part of the “perfect” wedding ideal. Personally, I will be planning on reinventing the ceremony and the language used to eliminate these sexist aspects. However, I believe this is a decision every bride should make themself. A wedding should be the spitting image of a bride’s wants and desires, so if they are happy with the traditional language, that is what they should do. 

What would you do?