Students are often required to subordinate themselves to all adults and teachers, deemed too young and immature to actively participate in society. We are asked instead to accept our inferior status within the education system until we are “ready” for the real world. When I was thirteen years old, a teacher explained to me that the world is broken up into levels, with young people on the lowest level, and we ought to accept our place on that level or face consequences. Although surprised then, I have since learned that this is in fact the reality of our society, having been commanded by some to “stop asking questions,” and taught by others that “young people are too immature to be given responsibility.”
A couple of weeks ago, Rita Goldwasser Meed, a guest lecturer in Mr. Sandler’s Jewish History elective, inspired me by offering a refreshing outlook on the role of young people in society. She told the story of Mordechai Anielewicz, a seventeen year old polish Jew who led the strongest and longest-lasting resistance movement against the Nazis during the WWII Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. A picture of Anielewicz even showed him to appear younger than most Stuyvesant students. His dedication, passion, and actions inspire me, and draw me to reconsider the values of the education system. Are students in fact inferior, or do they have the potential to bring about change like the young Anielewicz did?
I’ve always wanted to bring about change in the world; I’ve wanted to take action to improve the quality of life for those who aren’t fortunate enough to help themselves. And so thinking about the actions of Anielewicz I can’t help but wonder whether I’m wasting my time in school. If I want to take action to improve a world which I find sick, why am I blindly following the system which that world has put in place? We go to school each day for more than seven hours, returning home to do homework, and subsequently going to sleep – only to wake up the next morning to carry out that same routine once again, rarely questioning its value to our lives. Of course we’re gaining an education, but we are capable of so much more.
Students around the world have shown themselves able to bring about change. It was students who spearheaded the civil rights movement, the women’s rights movement, the anti-Vietnam war movement, the movement to save the soviet Jewry and the Russian revolution. Today, it is young people who are changing the world, capturing world headlines. Young people launched the Arab Spring, and the Occupy Movement. In fact, a mere ten year old girl was able to launch an entire feminist movement in Yemen with her book, “I am Nujood, Age 10, and Divorced.”
Outside of politics too, young people are being recognized for their admirable talent, with the Current Biography Yearbook citing 8 Presidents, 8 Nobel Prize laureates, and 25 billionaires who dropped out of school and performed phenomenally in their early years, launching them into the careers in which they would change the world. Many of us know the now famous stories of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg who dropped out schools and not only made fortunes for themselves, but also revolutionized their specialized fields.
While not all of us are geniuses like these famous men and will continue our education to earn degrees before entering the “real world,” we must acknowledge that young people really do have the potential to change the world. This is especially true at Stuyvesant, a school filled with unique, talented, and skilled students.
The attitude of adults must change. Students should not be treated as inferior beings, nor should they be subordinated by the education system, their teachers, or their advisors. Students are individuals with great potential, capable of changing the world, and if the goal of the education system is to be conducive of their future success, they should be treated as such. Educators should assume the role of an advisor, aiding students, their equals, along their educational journey, as opposed to instructors, force-feeding their students with information.
More importantly, the attitudes of students themselves must change. Instead of getting caught up in the routine of school, we must begin to see school as a means to an end, an education to facilitate for us to perform our future jobs and experiences with great care, quality, and efficiency. We must continuously look at the bigger picture, asking ourselves if what we are doing is conducive to our own goals, our own hopes, and our own endeavors.
Moreover, students should begin to acknowledge our own potential to bring about real change from a young age. Personally, I don’t want to wait until I’m twenty-six to start bringing about change. I started my first internship the summer before 7th grade, not for college, but because I want to get involved NOW, and since then, I have continued to avidly pursue opportunities in the real world.
There are so many brilliant students at Stuyvesant. Every one of us can start making a difference today. Whether you get an internship, begin practicing your hobby at home, or join the occupy wall street protests, it’s about time you get out into the real world, get your hands dirty, get your feet wet, and just do it.