The American School System

         “In the first place, God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made school boards.” These were the words of Mark Twain, one of the most memorable American writers of all time, who quit school when he was 12. There are so many reasons that the American school system is flawed. One reason is that almost nobody likes coming to school every day. Also, failing school doesn’t necessarily mean failing life, therefore showing that school doesn’t give you all the skills you need to make it in the “real world”. In addition to that, the base of our schools is telling kids that the only thing that they need to have a successful future is a 100.

        What if I told you to spend at least 7 hours every day inside of a room with 20 people who also don’t want to be there and a person who helps you solve problems you wouldn’t have without them? You would probably be pretty mad, but this is what most of the kids in the world have to deal with. For Americans, this is even worse because the teacher’s salary is about $49,000 per year; less than average. Also, the typical American teacher spends about 12-16 hours every day at school. There are also countless reasons that students hate school. 86% of people report hating school at one point and 28% of all college students report sleeping in class on a regular basis, not only because of stagnant teachers but also because of homework overload. Another problem with the American school system is bullying because 30% of people report being bullied in school. Bullying can lead kids and teachers to hate school.

        Another reason that schools all over the US are failing students is that they aren’t teaching kids the skills they need to do well in the “real world”. Although many schools teach “teen skills” as an elective, it is not mandatory and students who don’t take that class may not be prepared for living by themselves. Our president, Donald Trump said, “We need to fix our broken education system!”and CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk said, “Downloading data and algorithms into your brain is actually, well, amazingly bad”. Many successful people such as Einstein, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg quit school at one point, proving that, depending on your situation, quitting school can even be beneficial.

        My final reason that our school system is flawed is that it’s destroying students’ creativity and curiosity. There are so many examples of this in an average student’s time at school. For one, the teachers don’t allow kids to spend time at the library to learn unless it is “library day”. Also, the entire system is based on a number, and not on how much effort the student puts in. In our school system, kids are treated as learning machines, expected to sit still in place for hours on end, to finish mountains of work, and to memorize dates and facts and formulas about subjects that they may never use. Some students may spend hours on a project, but get a low score on it due to the fact that they may have done something that their teacher didn’t like, but any other teacher would have been okay with. In addition to that, every student is treated the same, which could end in some students failing, or others being bored out of their mind during class. This kind of system is also used for Another reason is that American schools put mathematics, science, language, and history over physical education and fine arts. Although math, science, English and social studies can come in handy sometimes, they don’t give you the skills you need that you receive from PE such as teamwork and leadership.

        I know you may be thinking American schools accept all types of students and are relatively cheaper than other countries’ schools, making them a great choice for your kids, but this can lead to bullying for the kids who stand out and have special needs. Although it is impossible for anything to be perfect, there are so many ways for American schools to be improved. For one, we could have a higher teacher to student ratio so that the kids can have more one-on-one learning. Another way for our schools to be more effective is flexible class times because 50 minutes nowadays just isn’t enough for kids to actually get in any quality learning. In other words, the United States’ education may be effective in many ways, but there is always space for improvement.

        All things considered, you may still be thinking that the positive qualities still outweigh the negative. If this was true, then why is the US ranked 17th in education out of 40 countries and not 1st? There is still hope because you can write a letter or email your principal suggesting more flexible class times, smaller classes, and setting up a placement test that places kids in classes that don’t overwhelm or bore them to death. If your suggestions are taken to heart, it can help secure a more positive future for American education.



Chinese Mugwort and Egg Soup

This soup is very common in East Asia and also easy to make. The vegetable used in the soup is typically only sold in Asian or oriental markets so make sure you don’t buy the wrong vegetable.


.5lb of Chinese mugwort

2 beaten eggs

Boiling water

3 slices of ginger cut into strips

Vegetable soup base



Black pepper


Cut the mugwort into thirds

Pour enough oil into a large pot to cover the bottom

After the oil is heated up, put the stem portion of the mugwort into the pot gently

After it is flexible and softened a little, put in the ginger and 1 cup of boiling water

Add a couple generous pinches of salt

Place the rest of the mugwort and water

After it is at a boil, pour in the eggs at different spots to reduce clumping

Add 1 heaping spoonful of the vegetable soup base and stir around until it dissolves

Add as many cups of boiling water as there are people you are serving after the water rises to a boil

Divide the soup into however many people’s bowls you are serving and sprinkle some black pepper on top. Serve hot


How to make Dumplings Part 2

Dumpling Skin Ingredients:

  • 500g all-purpose flour
  • 250g water
  • Pinch of salt


  1. Mix all of the ingredients until smooth
  2. Rest under plastic wrap for 20-30 min
  3. Cut into 2 even semicircles
  4. Put one under plastic wrap and shape other dough to a stout, cylindrical shape
  5. Poke a hole in the middle and widen the hole until the dough is about 2 inches across
  6. Pull cut one end of the dough and the opposite and stretch until it is 1 inch across
  7. Cut one length of dough about 1 inch from the end and turn it 90 degrees and cut it 1 inch from the end again. Repeat until you reach the end
  8. Push each piece of dough so that it is about 1 cm thick
  9. Hold one piece of the circle and turn while rolling out the side opposite from the one you are holding until the skin is twice as thick as paper
  10. Put about a tablespoon of stuffing into the center of the skin
  11. Fold the dumpling in half and crease only the side edges
  12. Pull one edge of the skin back and fold it onto itself
  13. Do the same on the other side and crease all of the remaining open dumplings

If you did it right, the dumpling should stand up. If it doesn’t, I probably messed up explaining. Remember to keep practicing. The most important thing to remember is to have a large enough skin, the middle is thicker than the edges and all of the possible exits for stuffing are sealed.

How to make Dumplings Part 1

Dumpling Stuffing Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of ground pork or chicken breast
  • 1 pound of shrimp
  • 2 – 3 green onions
  • 1 tablespoon chopped ginger
  • 10g cooking wine
  • 200g water
  • 24g sugar
  • 1 pinch of black pepper
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 large onion chopped to tiny pieces (optional)
  • 1 pound of carrot chopped to tiny pieces (optional)



  1. Put all ingredients EXCEPT for vegetables, oil and water into a large bowl
  2. Slowly add water in small intervals while stirring until all of the water is used, You should be able to see that the mixture is fluffy
  3. Stir in the oil and add vegetables afterward

Your dumpling stuffing is finished! Use it to make dumplings with the recipe from “How to make Dumplings Part 2”.

Tomato and Egg Soup Recipe

        This dish was the first one I learned that wasn’t scrambled eggs, instant mac, and cheese or instant ramen.

  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 4 eggs
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • Generous pinch of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of chicken base (optional)
  • 1 cup of hot water
  • 1-2 tablespoons oil


Cut tomatoes into large chunks and remove the core and leaves.

Use oil and cook with the eggs. Make sure the eggs are solid and in smaller than bite-sized pieces. Add in all of the tomatoes slowly and stir with eggs. After the tomatoes are soft, break them apart into bite-sized pieces and add water, chicken base, and salt and sugar. Stir until smooth and serve while still hot. 3 – 4 servings

The Warp Part 1

       “Tick tick tick tick”. As the clock turns closer, the whole class of middle schoolers prepares to bolt, except for one. Sitting in the corner with his hoodie on, unaware of his surroundings.

       His name is Jacob Bacoj. He is an immigrant from Russia, hopping from country to country with his father. So far, he has been in almost 15 different schools, but every time he gets to make friends, his father is fired or offered a better position somewhere else. Because of this, Jacob decided to stay neutral; not making friends, otherwise, they would get ripped away from him when he had to move.

       Now, back to the story. Jacob had fallen asleep. As the time passed, it grew dark and the schools closed. When Jacob woke up, he saw that it was already dark out and there was nobody in the parking lots. He bolted to the door and tried the handle, but it wouldn’t budge. He ran to the window, but it was locked. Jacob wandered around the room, accepting defeat and decided not to waste any time snooping around the classroom. In the closet, he didn’t find anything interesting, except for a few dead kids (just kidding). He sauntered over to the teacher’s desk. It was mostly covered with papers to grade. There was also a globe paperweight and a handful of pens and pencils. He slid open one of the drawers and found a grade-book containing all of the kids in his class’s grades. In the other drawer, there wasn’t anything inside. It was completely empty, but as Jacob looked inside, he saw what looked like a light switch inside.

       He stuck his arm inside and flipped the lever. Immediately, the wall behind him came apart to reveal a stairway down into blackness. Since Jacob knew that he was going to leave in a few days, he decided to have some adventure in his dull life.

He crept down the cold stairs. Each step he took made him colder. Down, deeper, lower, the steps never seemed to end. Finally, he came to a sleek white door with a light, not something that Jacob was expecting. Next to the door was a keypad and a palm scanner. Since Jacob didn’t probably have the right palm print for the scanner, he unscrewed the bolts and ripped out all of the wires. I know what you are thinking. “Isn’t that vandalism?” Yes, it is, now stop talking. As Jacob looked at the keypad, he realized that there were numbers and symbols. He tried his teacher’s first and last name, but none of them worked. Then he tried the classroom number. The slid open silently. Inside the door, it was almost completely dark, except for the light coming from the doorway. Jacob groped around in the darkness, feeling for a switch and found one, but it was the fan. Next to that was the light switch.

       The whole room was practically empty except for a big light-blue ball. It was covered in hexagonal patterns with grey highlights between the hexagons. As Jacob walked closer to the ball, a door formed from the hexagons and opened, revealing the inside of the ball. It was bare except for a chair that sat in the middle. Being the sneaky kid that he was, he sat in the chair and waited. Nothing happened. He waited for more. After some time, he saw the door slide shut silently and a container slid out of the ceiling with a pair of glasses in it. Suddenly, tendrils shot out from the sides of the seat and restrained Jacob’s body to it. He tried twisting around and cutting through them with his teeth, but it was no use. He decided to put on the glasses in front of him. All of a sudden, a pleasant voice cut through the silence. It said, “Please refrain from defacing the restraints. Look to your right.” Jacob looked and saw a green cube. “Look to your left.” Jacob saw a red cube. “Look up.” Jacob saw a black cube. “Touch your hands to the side of your chair.” The instant Jacob touched the sides of his chair, the mysterious voice said, “You are calibrated. Please have a pleasant journey.” Journey? What journey?

       All of a sudden, a globe of the Earth came into the view of Jacob. Underneath it was a timeline of all the major events, with the farthest to the left, the present. He lifted up his hands, but there wasn’t anything there. When he swiped at the globe, it spun and showed up on his old home. As he zoomed in, he could see his old life; his school, his home, his friends’ homes, and the candy shop that he would always go to after school with his friends and try the free samples. He tapped on the shop and out of nowhere, the lights flashed off and Jacob pulled off his glasses. He jerked back and his eyes seemed to go to the back of his head. He was flung around like a rag doll, and for once, he was thankful for the restraints. It stopped as abruptly as it came. The tendrils around his chest loosened and retracted back into the sides of the seat. Jacob got up nervously and stumbled dizzily to the exit that appeared. After his eyes adjusted to the light, he saw that he was no longer in the room he was in before.

This room was completely white-washed with more than one exit. Also, the words above the exits were words that Jacob remembered seeing before but forgot how to read or speak. Where was he?

What if you were blind?

What if you were blind? Imagine groping your way through a labyrinth of darkness, not knowing where it will lead you. If you were blind, you wouldn’t be able to see your family or friends. You would never know what they look like or how they act around you. If you were blind, there would be no light. You would never experience any colors. There would be no sunsets or rainbows. If you were blind, you would hear things others don’t. You could tell how someone was feeling when they talk, even if they don’t know how they feel. If you were blind, people would treat you differently, like you are a black hole, trying to suck all of the colors out of the world. Imagine never seeing anything. Your entire life. Nothing. Ever.

Minecraft Review

Minecraft was the biggest game in the world for a while. In the game, you have two modes; survival and creative. In survival, you try to survive against hunger, zombies, creepers, and spiders. In creative, you can fly and you can build whatever you feel like. There are also mods that you can download online that add additional items into the game. Another cool function the game has is multiplayer, where you can play on servers that other people created. On other peoples’ servers, you can play mini-games and connect with friends. In total, there have been 250 million copies of the game sold worldwide and more than 40 million people play it monthly. Overall, the game is actually very good, considering that it was released in 2009. Mojang is adding many updates to the game every year, fixing bugs and adding new items and animals. If there was anything I would change about the game, it would be for it to have better graphics and for a way to recover what you lost when you die in lava (in survival). Even though the game itself is relatively old, many people (including me) still play it.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane


Dear Kate DiCamillo,


    Most books I’ve read are just finished and forgotten. Your book showed me a new perspective. I have many differences with Edward, but also many similarities. After a long journey, Edward finally realizes how lucky he was before he fell in the ocean. After moving to a wealthy neighborhood, I realize how lucky I am.

Edward has tragedy after tragedy happen to him and his mind keeps changing. Even though I don’t have tragedies happen to me, I still changed. Maybe if Edward wasn’t thrown off a boat, he would never learn to appreciate what he had. I used to have a friend in my old neighborhood. After I moved away, we grew farther and farther apart. After reading your book, I learned to appreciate things that you have while you still have them.  Every time Edward moves to a new place, he loses things he had, but also gains things from his new owners. He learns to appreciate what he has while he still has it. Reading your book changed the way I look at things now. Eventually, Edward gets back to his old owners and they don’t recognize him. He thinks differently about everything he does after his journey.

I think if I hadn’t read your book, I wouldn’t know what the world looked like in a different perspective.



Joseph Zhang, 5th Grade

Refugee by Alan Gratz Letter

Dear Mrs.Washburn (my teacher),

    Hi! How are you doing? I am doing well. I have just finished the book Refugee by Alan Gratz. My favorite character is Josef, not because we have the same name, but because of how interesting his background was and what kind of person he was. He showed bravery by speaking up when the other mutineers were giving in. He also slapped his father even though he didn’t want to so he would be quiet when the doctor inspected him. If I didn’t know how old he was, I would think he was an adult.


       When Josef went into the “German” part of the train, I knew things were not going to end well. He got caught by a Hitler youth, a person sworn to live and die for Hitler, but got lucky because the boy still had a sliver of good in him and let Josef off with no more than a warning. Although it was tempting to see how people would treat him if he wasn’t a Jew, it still wasn’t wise for Josef to go to the German part of the train because he could have been caught by someone less forgiving and gotten his family thrown off the train because he was being selfish. Later in the book when he agreed to storm the captain, Josef wasn’t open-minded enough to see that there wasn’t anybody to drive the boat if they held the captain hostage. When his fellow mutineers decided to give in, he still stayed angry, even if the captain wasn’t bringing them back to Germany. One event that changed Josef was slapping his father in the face. When Josef slapped his father he saved his life, but not without changing their relationship. Afterward, his father feels betrayed because the Germans came and ransacked their room, even though Josef says that if he stayed still, the Germans would leave him alone. After being accused of lying by his father, Josef feels guilty that he ever brought back memories of the concentration camp back to his father.


        One theme I observed in the book is “What you do affects others more than you think”. Examples of this are when the Hitler youth on the train lets Josef leave without punishment. To him, it is just an act of kindness, but to Josef, it could mean the difference between life and death for him and his family. When the people in the boat rushed past Mahmoud (a refugee from Syria), he pleaded them to take his mom’s baby so she wouldn’t drown. Reluctantly, they eventually accepted the baby. Although there has to be someone to take care of the baby, her mom is in no condition to take care of her. By accepting the baby, they might have just saved her life if the waters became too dangerous. Lito, the policeman who rescued Josef’s father risked his own life for somebody who didn’t want theirs. If Josef’s father hadn’t jumped, he might not have had to risk his life. If Josef’s father had gotten killed, the entire ship (except for some of the crew) would be in a sour mood. Josef’s father is like the domino that could knock over the entire line with one mishap.


        I feel that refugees are overlooked, even if they are in plain sight. Most refugees stay in camps for years, even decades just to be accepted into a new country. It is my responsibility to help refugees who need food or clothing. Austin can help with the refugee crisis by accepting refugees and starting programs that provide refugees with food, water, and shelter. Our government is also capable of helping refugees by allowing them into our country. If everybody does these things, we can help refugees begone. From reading this novel, I opened my eyes to the life of refugees, hiding and running in fear. Everybody deserves human rights, regardless of their differences. I also learned about many cases of refugees that are similar and different in many different ways. I would recommend this book to others because other than being a good book, it teaches you about what it is like being a refugee and the different cultures of different people.


       This book showed me a new way to look at not just refugees, but everybody that feels out of place and needs something they don’t have.


                                                                    Joseph Zhang