The Hourglass

The Baldwin Plague

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November 2016

The beautiful sounds of harmonies pour from the mouths of the Baldwin Maskers as they rehearse for the fall musical, Sister Act, but suddenly, the song is garbled with the sound of a girl coughing, then another, then another. The Baldwin Plague is spreading, and no one is safe.

The Baldwin Plague struck the Baldwin Upper School fiercely this autumn. In fact, when 118 Upper School students answered questions in a survey, 75% of students came forward as victims of the Baldwin Plague. The Baldwin Plague can be defined as an illness that is longer than a 24 hour bug, leaving the victim feeling as though she had been hit by a bus, then had her sinuses clogged for an eternity and her face rubbed raw from excessive tissue usage, along with a trailing cough that lasts long after the victim has been afflicted. It comes in a variety of forms, anything ranging from the common cold to pneumonia and bronchitis, but in the eyes of a Baldwin girl, it is simply the Baldwin Plague.

So how do these three illnesses, varying in the specificity of their symptoms, lengths of affliction, and treatment methods, all become synonymous in the minds of Baldwin girls? It hardly has anything to do with the actual illnesses themselves but more to do with the chain of events that occurs long after the illness has passed on to the next student.

By missing even one day of school, a Baldwin girl could miss anywhere between two and a half to five hours of classes, depending on her schedule for that day. That means two and a half to five hours of notes, debates, and discussions that could never be replicated by visiting a teacher during g-block.

Lily Barnes ‘17 stated her issue with illness at Baldwin, saying, “If I missed school, I would have missed a lot of notes, and I would have gotten really far behind. I don’t worry too much about missing tests because they are easier to make up.”

The problem isn’t missing tests for two reasons. For one, some Baldwin students don’t miss their tests just because they are sick. The survey reported that out of 118 students, 15% came to school while they were sick just to take a test, and that doesn’t even include the students who come and do not have a test on the day of their illness. The other reason that tests aren’t a problem is simply because they’re easy to make up. You pick a time and place and go.

Lily Barnes pointed out that students get behind in schoolwork, not because of homework, but because they simply feel as though they cannot miss class itself. 52% of the students who responded to the survey said that they had to come in because they could not miss a single day of note-taking.

This becomes a problem for the community. An epidemic, if you will. A plague. Instead of resting and getting better, Baldwin girls are coming into school, sharing their germsand working just as hard as normal. This doesn’t even include the students who came into school because they needed to attend their sports game or sing and dance through a few hours of rehearsal, pushing their bodies harder than ever, even when their bodies need nothing more than a cup of hot tea and a nap.

According to Ms. Jones, the nurse at Baldwin, the common cold can be contagious anywhere between 5-7 days and begins to be contagious the day before the afflicted begins to see symptoms. She recommends that “students and teachers stay home when they are sick. Most people don’t stay home for a week when they have a cold, but if you have a frequent cough and copious secretions, it’s best to stay home to avoid spreading the virus and get the rest you need if you are sick.” However, this proves to be very difficult for the very reasons stated above.

It’s easy to see that like so many other articles in The Hourglass, this article also boils down to one common concept: stress. Madison Sanders ‘17 summarized the issue at the heart of the Baldwin Plague when she stated, “It says a lot about the culture of our school environment… The fact that students feel the need to come into school, even when they are afflicted with veritable illnesses, signifies that this environment of academically motivated people has gone too far; it has reached the brink where extreme productivity and high quality learning turns into extreme unproductivity and lower quality learning for all.”

Baldwin girls combat this issue in the only way they know how: to work, work, work,  in the hopes of maintaining their grades and keeping up with their extracurriculars. Besides that, the girls don’t have much leniency. While 11% of girls answered that they were given ample time to make up their missing work, 34% felt as though “for the most part” they had enough time, and 33%, one third of the surveyed population, admitted that they did not have enough time at all (The remaining 22% of students surveyed reported nonapplicable).

Baldwin girls want to do well; they want to succeed. But when a teenage girl can’t take a day off because she’s sick, much less an entire Upper School of them, the gravity of this situation is revealed. Roya Alidjani ‘17 concluded: “If you are contagious and/or your sickness has a name, stay home.”

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The Baldwin Plague