Yesterday in my English class we were about to start Scene 5 of Antigone when one classmate raised his hand and asked, “Why do we have to read this?” It wasn’t a rude question, in fact, our teacher seemed ready to answer with complete honesty. She told us that before she began teaching Antigone to us, she asked herself the same question. She didn’t fully understand why it was being taught until she dove deeper.
Democracy was a huge part of the lifestyle of the ancient Greeks as well as debate. We discovered that the reason we were reading this was because many of these themes presented in Antigone still resonate with the way our society works today. Women in leadership/ruling positions, family loyalty, corruption, love, etc. This discussion then caused us to branch out into greater topics.
We all started throwing out questions.
Are schools structured to focus mainly on sports? Is there enough focus on the arts and sciences? Has the curriculum departed from teaching us things of value to preparing us for tests?
Our teacher told us that she understood our feelings and concerns about our education, and wished that we were able to learn things that could be useful to us down the road. She then told us something that made a whole lot of sense. Us teenagers spend a lot of time complaining about the things we wish we could change. We go on and on about how we hate this and hate that, but why are we just sitting back and letting these things continue? Why don’t we do something about it?
As a group, typically, high school students are told that they must listen to adults and that their voices are not to be used for anything of importance until they themselves become adults. Sure, this gets them to follow the rules and stop talking out of turn, but is it doing more harm than good?
The subject of teen voices being ignored is a common conversation at my school and has been brought up with a few of my teachers. But what I find most interesting is that they all seem to have the same response: “I wish I could change that but…”
Everyone has a voice, they just might not be completely sure on how to use it. Students need outlets where they can feel comfortable in voicing their opinions. Make petitions. Start clubs at your school. Write for the school newspaper. (Write for Affinity!) Educate yourself on the issues that matter to you and go out and do something, no matter how small, to make them better. Utilize your voice, but do not abuse the privilege. It can all start with one classroom discussion and next thing you know you’re writing for your favorite online magazine.