Teen Voices: What is your generation’s biggest challenge?

by Jim Lang

In my final week with my AP Language and Composition 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.

Student Views

“Getting past the constant pressure and extreme criticism that we have to deal with everyday. Coming to peace with the fact that nobody’s perfect.”

“The previous generations’ mistakes.”

“Growing income inequality and a diminishing middle class.”

“Our generation’s biggest challenge is going to be the reform that most wish to apply to our world. I believe our generation is tiring of hearing about our world’s problems and will attempt to solve many of our world’s largest problems like poverty, hunger, and corruption of government.”

“Living up to the more demanding expectations that no baby boomer truly recognizes. Communicating and meeting people face to face – our social skills are slipping.”

“Dealing with budget cuts to education.”

“Gaining independence. Technology is great, but we are becoming too dependent. We rely on social media to make new friends or dating sites to find the ‘love of my life’.”

“Paying off debt, figuring out where the U.S. economy will fit sustainably, energy efficiency, climate change, actually doing something about the third world. Shall I continue?”

“The biggest challenge is dealing with today’s socioeconomic situation. We experienced an awful recession and now we’re dealing with rising costs such as tuition. This was left behind by the past generations, and it’s our job to fix it for the next ones.”

“Human stupidity. People act without any sense and expect there to be no repercussions.”

My View

Growing income inequality and the damaged political system that created it are the most significant challenges facing today’s teens and tomorrow’s leaders. In short, they must combat selfishness and greed.

The top 1 percent of Americans hold 35 percent of the nation’s net worth, while the bottom 80 percent hold only 11 percent. This kind of discrepancy is unsustainable and only occurs when the system is rigged to benefit those who seek to maintain power. This inequality is the core of virtually all of our nation’s other problems.

Today’s teens will be faced with the challenge of reforming our political and economic system so that it is once again based on hard work, ingenuity, and fairness for all citizens.

Fortunately, from what I see tomorrow’s leaders are far more selfless, moral, and intelligent than today’s leaders are.

Thursday: What Makes a Great Teacher?




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