Too afraid to have a voice?

Some students avoid speaking on sensitive topics such as racism or politics out of fear of being judged

Many+students+feel+insecure+about+sharing+their+opinions+on+difficult+topics%2C+especially+without+the+presence+of+face+to+face+contact.

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Many students feel insecure about sharing their opinions on difficult topics, especially without the presence of face to face contact.

The divisive 2020 election, emotional pressure of COVID-19 and increased passion behind the Black Lives Matter movement has caused some students to refrain from sharing their own opinion out of fear of judgement. 

Kay Bacharach, a freshman and junior English teacher at GBHS, has had first hand experience with freshmens’ different approaches to tackling hard topics such as the usage of the N-word in readings and Zoom meetings.

“I almost think that freshmen are more open than my junior class,” Bacharach said. “Freshmen come into class with a fresh and open perspective. This is one of the reasons I love teaching freshmen. ”

Bacharach uses different tactics and skills to help her students feel more comfortable when different and difficult subjects come up in assignments and readings.

“There was the N-Word in our reading…I ended up sending out an article to my students about the N-Word, what it is and how we use it in society today,” Bacharach said. “Then we discussed it in class.”

Bacharach also said that she likes to have her students write their feelings down on paper for them to discuss it in class. This could help them express their emotions in a healthier way, rather than withholding their voice.

In addition, many teachers have avoided talking about particular sensitive topics such as the 2020 election, including Bacharach. 

“The election and politics have definitely become a private opinion for people, it’s become a paralyzing topic which is very sad. I want my students to feel comfortable in class,” Bacharach said. “I also don’t want my opinion on politics to affect how they view English. All of us like to be agreed with and have points validated, and the election and racism are emotional topics. Some people are hesitant just because they have seen so much in society, like the downside of expressing opinions.”     

Erik Taylor, a freshman taking English this semester, agreed with Bacharach’s statement that there is sometimes a downside to expressing opinions.  

I would not normally argue or speak with someone that I disagree with unless the teacher said it was a debate because people would look at me and see me differently, especially people I haven’t gotten close with in in-person class.”

— Erik Taylor

“I would not normally argue or speak with someone that I disagree with unless the teacher said it was a debate because people would look at me and see me differently, especially people I haven’t gotten close with in in-person class,” Taylor said. “If I didn’t know anyone in the class and argued with someone, the whole class would probably put a label on me and make an impression on me that may or may not be true.”

Taylor explained that you need to be prepared to have an argument with someone you disagree with, otherwise, you may “lose” and your opinion may seem wrong or untruthful. 

“Everyone has their own opinion. You have to pick and choose your words very carefully. There are certain words you can’t say because they might be (offensive), leading to you being judged,” Taylor said.

Kaylee Moon, a freshman who is also enrolled in English this semester, held similar views to Taylor’s.

“(A majority of people) have the same opinion, whether it’s political or racial. If you disagree with the majority of people, then you are most likely (to be) judged,” Moon said.

A majority of her Zoom class time is spent with computer screens off and everyone muted. During Moon’s class, people often have to be picked on in order to participate, demonstrating that many do not want to talk about certain subjects, at least not through the computer.

“No one talks (in Zoom class),” Moon said. “(The teacher) has to call on someone to participate or talk in the chat. I think most of the time it’s because people don’t want to share their opinion. You never know who could be listening and start to judge you.”

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