What kind of advice can today’s teens offer?

by Jim Lang

Here’s a different twist to this blog this week.

In the final weeks of the 2013-14 school year, I became increasingly appreciative of the diverse array of (mostly) mature insights and opinions shared by the juniors and seniors in my Advanced Placement Language and Composition classes.

Much of our classroom discussion and work this year centered around the following observation by Aristotle: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

It was my hope as an educator that we would entertain a diversity of thoughts in my classroom this year. I wanted our learning to be guided by the principle that there are often multiple answers rather than merely a “right” one. My job as an educator is to teach my students how to entertain and appreciate all viewpoints even as they analyze and search for the best solution.

So, in my final week with these students, I asked them to participate in a voluntary activity. I wanted to share some of my students’ viewpoints – their voices – here in the hopes that we can entertain and value their opinions and ideas, too.

The task was simple. I asked them to answer five open-ended questions on a survey:

  • What is the biggest misconception about your generation?
  • What one book should every person read, and why?
  • What is your generation’s biggest challenge?
  • What makes a great teacher?
  • How should we improve our schools?

The rules were simple. Participation was completely voluntary. They could choose to respond to all, some, or none of the questions. They did not indicate their identity or grade. They knew that some of their responses would be shared here.

Each day this week I will ask you to entertain my students’ thoughts on these five questions. I will add my own thoughts each day as well. In the spirit of Aristotle, whether you choose to accept them or not is your choice.

But I am proud that their voices offer such exceptional advice. These are some of the educated minds I was blessed to spend each day with this school year.

Monday: What Is the Biggest Misconception About Your Generation?

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