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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Teens demand the right to remain silent

Ninety percent of hiring managers say oral communications is a critical skill for job-seekers, according to a recent survey by the Association of American Colleges & Universities.

But, some students say they’re too anxious to speak in class, reports Taylor Lorenz in The Atlantic. Students want alternative assignments, such as doing an art project or writing an essay.

This week, a tweet posted by a 15-year-old high-school student declaring “Stop forcing students to present in front of the class and give them a choice not to” garnered more than 130,000 retweets and nearly half a million likes. A similar sentiment tweeted in January also racked up thousands of likes and retweets. And teachers are listening.


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“Nobody should be forced to do something that makes them uncomfortable,” an eighth-grade girl told Lorenz. 

Some disagree. Public speaking is part of “the business of preparing students for college, career, and civic life,” said Ryan Jones, a high-school history teacher in Connecticut. “Now, some kids (many) are deathly afraid to do it, but pushing outside of comfort zones is also a big part of what we do.”

When I was a San Jose Mercury News op-ed columnist, I was invited to speak to a local service club. My heart was pounding so hard I thought it would knock me over when I got up to walk to the front of the room. I started talking. People smiled, laughed, nodded. At the end, I got a round of applause and a “thank you” keychain with pocket knife.

Over the years, I spoke to Rotary clubs, Kiwanis, Lions, Elks, Moose, Job’s Daughters, University Women, Humanists, Unitarians, educators, and so on. After awhile, my pre-speech nervousness became a pleasant surge of adrenalin.

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