Having a say

Recently a columnist in my town paper lamented how faceless she seemed to be to local teens (particularly the ones behind the cash register). "Can't they see me?" she moaned.

A lot of teens ask the same thing about adults - except the question is slightly different. Often it's, "Can't they hear me?"

On a day-to-day level, finding serious outlets for expression - particularly in this post-Columbine world - can be hard for teenagers. Even as Americans hold a national discussion about understanding kids better, many adults make it clear they aren't eager to listen, or are suspicious about what they might hear.

Just recall a 1999 Public Agenda poll: While an overwhelming majority of Americans said that giving kids a good start was the most important issue facing the United States, a sizable majority also used words like "lazy" and "irresponsible" to describe teens.

But many kids are tackling the same issues that concern adults. Late last week, for example, more than 1,000 K-8 students came together in Boston to talk about peace. In Providence, the debate focused on America's future in the world as high-schoolers met in the State House, as you'll see in our story on page 12.

Such topics crop up in yet another forum: school newspapers. Some of the work students produce (in concert with advisers) gets hard-hitting or edgy enough to prompt censorship or shut-downs. But many educators argue that most such articles shed important light on student life - and that responsibility for publishing is a great way for kids to develop the very thing adults say they want to hear: a thoughtful voice.

*E-mail newcomba@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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