Friday, November 8, 2013

An Eleven Year Old's Passionate Response to an Equally Passionate Essay in TEEN INK magazine

This essay response made my eyes teary as my student read it aloud, not only because it is extraordinarily well written for a 6th grader, but also--and even more importantly--because of the heartfelt connection between a preteen and a teen via passionate words.

In the informal essay, “Of My Generation,” [TeenInk author] Amal Oladuja talks about the lives of today’s generation. The tone of this essay is very unique. It is sarcastic to most parents who might be reading, but something kids can relate to their own lives. A sentence says, “I am expected to thrive academically, eat healthily, sleep regularly, exercise frequently, socialize freely, converse openly—al the while managing my time efficiently.” When an adult reads this, he/she may have a reaction like: “This is really what our children think of their lives when we try so hard for them?!” But that is exactly what parents are doing wrong. They try too hard to make their children meet the perfect expectations of society. Instead of thinking of the child as a person, they think of them as a tool.

The tone of Oladuja’s essay suggests that life is something he has no say in. Almost every paragraph starts with a commanding verb: “I am expected to, I’m supposed to, I’ve got to, I belong to…,” and so on. Also, the way the writer puts everything in an extreme compare/contrast situation hits every reader hard with different emotions. Personally, I can relate to this essay. It’s true, being a perfectionist, trying to be someone I’m not, being social, and getting straight A+’s is sometimes nearly impossible in our constricted time. Reading this essay made me realize that the “Stillborn Generation,” as Amal Oladuja calls it, may never be able to think for themselves or “breathe a suggestion.”

If you are a parent or teacher reading this, what have you learned from this young writer?

If you are a kid yourself, can you relate to this pressure, and how would you like to see our attitudes toward education change in the U.S.A?

I highly recommend the publication TeenInk for thoughtful kids ages 11 and up.