“Student is not a container you have to fill but a torch you have to light up.”
– Albert Einstein
If one turned the news on in the past couple of months they are bound to have seen all the coverage about all the student activists raising their voices and speaking out against the injustice they believe is being committed. Although there are few students that are being specifically highlighted for their voices, students all across the country have also one by one started voicing their concerns. However, student voice shouldn’t just be a wave that starts, gathers media attention, and crashes and dies a couple months later. It should be a reality all over the world and not considered a privilege but a right of every student.
When students go to college and enter the ‘real world’ they are expected to vouch for themselves, stand up for what they believe in, and are expected to make a change in the world. However, the way people are looking at it today is that students listen to what they are being told unable to challenge authority, ask questions, and have their voice heard and suddenly when they become adults they must be comfortable with their voice. Even in an ideal and perfect world, this isn’t rational. From a young age, students need to be taught that their voice matters and they have a right to have their opinions heard.
Students understand and process current events, they too have strong opinions, and the ideas churning in their head could lead them to discover the cure to cancer, solve world poverty, or even find a way to make Jupiter a liveable planet. But unless we value and encourage voices of the students from a young age not only will they have to spend a good chunk of their adult life figuring out themselves, their careers, and interests but also how to make their voice audible.
The benefits of student’s voice aren’t just for the students but beneficial to the educational system. As Edutopia writer Bill Palmer argues, “Students have untapped expertise and knowledge that can bring renewed relevance and authenticity to classrooms and school reform efforts.” In schools students are the ones learning and who better to get advice about how to improve the education system than the students that are experiencing it for themselves on a daily basis. Another extremely important reason that student’s voice is important is students will grow up and become members of society that will be expected to contribute and that means they need experience in problem-solving, reasoning, and learning to work with people that they wouldn’t normally work with to bring about change to the community and unless that environment is simulated in advance to these real-world situations where’s the guarantee that students will become the functioning members of society we expect them to be.
Student’s voice has been extremely successful in creating world-changing figures. Let’s take a look at Malala Yosafzai, the world’s icon when it comes to feminism, education reform, and a role model for activists. As a student, if she didn’t have support for her voice we wouldn’t have the Malala that has been changing the way education impacts girls in third world countries. As Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, eloquently puts it, “People ask me, what special is in my mentorship which has made Malala so bold and so courageous and so vocal and poised? I tell them, don’t ask me what I did. Ask me what I did not do. I did not clip her wings, and that’s all.” There are obviously restraints that need to be put on students to keep them from being reckless but rather than caging them we should be training them. Giving them the freedom and encouragement to have their voice heard but not enough to misuse it.
Student’s are the worlds next astronauts, engineers, politicians, teachers, authors, innovators, ambassadors, doctors, lawyers, and so forth but today and the years they sit in the education system is what is preparing them to become the amazing people that they are bound to become. Their voices need to be developed starting from the very moment they enter the public education system because they could be a child prodigy, the next Einstein, Rowling, Armstrong, who knows? Student’s are a resource that is still waiting to be tapped on. The wealth of knowledge, passion, curiosity that lies in a student just needs to be unleashed and the change that we will start seeing the world will be a shock.
We want students to become leaders, not the kind that sits in fancy offices all day and bark orders but the ones that truly spark change in the world and encourage others to do the same. Part of being a strong leader is being able to speak effectively and unless a student has their voice heard their wasting valuable time when they grow older to become the leaders they are destined to become. Our students are our future, their voices and thoughts will be tomorrows decisions, it’s time to stop holding them back from their full potential.