From the Editors: Remove the Bias

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SING! is not only a time for students to put themselves onstage, display their talents to their friends and family, and spend countless hours rehearsing in the cafeteria; it’s also the time to call up your mother’s best friend’s son, who happened to graduate from Townsend Harris in 2008. “Ask him to come judge! We need alumni on our side.”

The practice of allowing former THHS students to judge the SING! performances is inherently biased and forces the performers to shift focus from their shows to the people sitting in the audience. Each student in SING! spends hours creating every detail of their shows, trying to make them the best that they can be. But during that final week before the performance, performers become focused on which alumni will be attending and hope that those attending aren’t the ones that they had altercations with the year before, or the one whose son is starring in one of the shows. Oftentimes, it does not come down to which show was better, more rehearsed, or more enjoyable – it comes down to how the alumni feel about the people in each show.

Granted, we are not saying that every former student of Townsend Harris High School harbors grudges against our current student body. Many alumni probably come to SING! to enjoy the performance and to see what their alma mater is up to. But more often than not, alumni come in with preconceived notions about the shows and the grades that created them, and they judge accordingly.

When people judge a show based on preferences other than the actual show, they judge unfairly. They give scores so low that a five minute slideshow of horse photos wouldn’t deserve them. They might not clap or might spend the evening staring at the stage in stony silence, even while the rest of the audience is laughing out loud. And it is of course nobody’s fault if your mother or older brother went to Townsend Harris and wants to come support their family. It is to be expected that a family member or close friend would want to see you win. That’s not the problem. The problem is allowing people who could not be expected to be unbiased judge a competition. This system turns SING! into a war of who can bring the most siblings to the show, and the results rarely reflect the actual performance.

There is no easy way to select people to choose the winner of SING!, but there are ways to remedy the problem. Teachers could become the main judgesalumni who have been out of the school for four or more years (who are more likely to be impartial) or alumni who have no relatives in the show could join in as well. There is no need for politicking in our artistic expressions. Until this is fixed, SING! isn’t about what you do, but who you know.