Students around the country have had much to say in response to our recent writing prompts about politics, podcasts, family history, digital privacy and more. Below, we’ve rounded up our favorite comments on the three most popular prompts.
But this week we were especially delighted to see participants from new classes in Northbrook, Ill., and Atlanta, Mich., responding to other students, particularly on our question about how to deal with boredom. Commenters asked questions, gave advice and expressed appreciation for one another’s answers — exactly the kind of cross-school conversations we love to see. More next week, please!
Finally, welcome to new classes from Austin High School; Cleveland; Wilmette, Ill.; and a special shout-out, again, to Julia R. Masterman Secondary School in Philadelphia, whose students continue to post wonderful responses across prompts.
Please note: All student comments have been lightly edited for length, but otherwise appear exactly as they were originally submitted.
What Is Your Reaction to the Racist Photo on the Virginia Governor’s Yearbook Page?
Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia faced pressure to resign from fellow Democrats over a racist photo on his medical school yearbook page from 1984. On Saturday, he denied that he was in the image.CreditParker Michels-Boyce for The New York Times
A viral news story about a photograph showing people in blackface and Ku Klux Klan robes displayed on Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia’s medical school yearbook page riveted teenagers as well as adults this week, especially since the story continues to develop.
We asked students what they thought should happen next. The majority said they believed the governor should step down, but some had their doubts. We were most impressed by the way commenters carefully parsed the larger issues raised by this incident, including whether our past should determine our future; how we should treat public officials; and what racism looks like.
Should we be held accountable for our past mistakes?
While it doesn’t excuse Governor Northam, I do believe that people can change. The pictures were presumably taken in nineteen eighty four and today it is twenty nineteen. That difference is three decades and a half. I think that that is enough time to make a substantial change in one’s beliefs for the better. As we get older we should learn from our mistakes and question what we believe in. While the governor should probably still resign due to the fact that he has involvement with these photos. Let’s not judge his character today, on an incident that occurred when he was young and dumb.
Everyone does something for a reason based off of what they believe. I know people are able to change, but people have thoughts and beliefs that they often don’t realize they are conveying through their actions. In the question posed about if people should be held accountable for their actions even if they took place a long time ago, I think they should. People are a product of what they have done and how they have been socialized to accept certain behaviors. If proper repercussions aren’t taken against injustices, people don’t learn that they are consequences to their actions.
Even though Northham was incredibly wrong to post that he should not be resigned for it, simply because that was many years ago and he has grown as a person since then. He made a terrible mistake and everyone makes mistakes, but what really matters is how he grew upon it, and the Governor is certainly not making or publishing those horrifying photos anymore.
My initial reaction to seeing the yearbook photo was disgust and shock. Even though this photo was created and taken a long time ago, we know by now that the excuse “things were different back then” has really gone out of fashion, so to speak. There were an abundance of people in the 80s who knew racism was wrong and acted upon it, and just because that number may have grown since then, it doesn’t mean we once lived in a time when racism was never protested against.
While there is the claim that people can learn from their mistakes, in my opinion he has repeated many of the same racist actions over and over. Our world has enough hate, and with a governor in power who has a history of racist actions, I think that sends the wrong message. I think he deserves to resign, and I think that as he continues to lose support, he will be forced to resign.
Should public officials be held to a higher standard of conduct?
This behavior is unacceptable, even if it happened in the past. If his actions are overlooked and accepted on the terms that he was young and inexperienced, it gives young Americans and current government officials the idea that this type of behavior is OK. A young American that hears about Mr. Northam and what he got away with is then given the idea that racist actions and harmful behavior are “OK because you’re young and inexperienced”. As a society, we need to destroy the idea that any type of racist behavior is acceptable and teach the future generations what it means to be a respectful, considerate, and aware citizen. If Mr. Northam is not punished for his actions, these lessons will be lost.
In this new age of information, I believe that it is important for people to realize that what they do in their past can very well affect their future. This could very much lead to a greater sense of caution among ourselves, including government officials. Our government not only helps run the country and maintain peace. As people in positions of power, they set examples for people and represent us in the eyes of the rest of the world. That is why it is very important for them to take responsibility for what they do in the past. The Governor took the right step when he apologized for his past actions, but now he needs to act on his words.
… Northem may not have been in that yearbook photo, but he did admit to painting his face black in his childhood. He may now know that his actions were not correct, but changing actions is not telling if his opinions have changed. How do we know that Northem does not hold racist opinions?
I think the photo is offensive. Northam was an adult when he decided to dress up in blackface. He knew right from wrong. While I get what happened was a long while ago and that people can change, I still think he should resign. While I can forgive him he shouldn’t be governor. When you’re an elected official you should be held to a higher standard than regular people because you represent our country. He has told us that what he did is unacceptable. People who say we’re taking this too extreme make it seem like we’re ending any chance of him having a career. However, we’re not making him go to jail. He’s not getting a fine. He can work at any job he wants. Just not at a job that requires a solid sense of what’s right or wrong.
Can the people of Virginia trust Mr. Northam?
My first reaction to this photograph that displayed Mr. Northam on that yearbook page was a sign of pure disrespect and insensitivity. To me the photo represents a negative part of our history. In my opinion, his responses were also alarming because at first he apologized for it, then 24 hours later, he suggested it was him. His story kept changing and calls into question his credibility. Because of this incident and how he handled it, I believe Mr. Northam should step down. I think it would be best in his best interest to admit to his mistakes and resign. It would be hard for him to govern under these conditions. It would be hard to regain the trust of Virginians at this time.
When the governor initially admitted to his fault, I didn’t give up on him just yet. Too often, people with social and political power make mistakes in their past and are not given any sort of second chance by the people … My disapproval, though, comes from the fact that he lied to his supporters. It is one thing to make a mistake and then change, but to completely deny your actions merely to maintain your job makes me sick. I do not think Governor Ralph Northam deserves to stay in office.
We often say that America can often be the land of second chances, and I do believe that it should be, but this case is a little bit different. The way this situation has been handled-Northam directly ignoring Democrat machinery telling him to step down and flip-flopping on his admission of guilt-makes this man unelectable in the future. Even if some believe that Northam is telling the truth, that he wasn’t in the photo, it seems impossible to convince a majority of the public of such. The Democratic party cannot associate with somebody shrouded in this much controversy, and as such I do think that Northam has no option but to step down. Politics is a game of relations, and when somebody has no political capital left and their constituents no longer feel they represent them, that person has no business being in office.
How Do You Deal With Boredom?
An Opinion piece over the weekend suggested that adults should “Let Children Get Bored Again,” and we knew our readers would have a few opinions about that. We asked students what they did when they were bored and whether they agreed with the author that boredom can be a good thing.
While many talked about wishing for the time to get bored instead of feeling constantly stressed, others acknowledged that boredom often leads to mindless TV-watching, video-game playing and social-media scrolling.
Our favorite responses, though? Those from students who gave concrete examples and suggestions for using boredom creatively.
Boredom is a break from a busy life
I believe that what the article really means is that we should give kids more time to relax and think, and on this I do agree. I think that kids should have time to think and be creative because the “adult world” doesn’t seem to have much of that kind of just free time. Unfortunately, my free time between my time playing school, chess, soccer, Hebrew school, chores, eating, and sleeping adds up to a mere few hours a week. I think that the anxiety levels and overall health of children would improve if they had more time to just think and relax, and slightly less homework. An idea that might work for this would be 15 minutes of mandatory “boredom” every day in school. This would give kids something to look forward to as well as a time to calm down and think more deeply about things they may have skimmed over otherwise.
I miss the feeling of being bored, as I need a break every once in a while. I never got a phone until last year, and neither of my parents have cell phones. Therefore, I’ve never been raised to take out my phone or any electronics at the dinner table, on a flight, or on a road trip. But when I see other young children doing that, it makes me feel almost gross inside. They are actual human beings around you, who would love to talk to you. Why would you take out a screen and talk to that instead?
When we were little, we were never bored
When I was younger, the term “boredom” rarely came out of my life. I was an energetic little kid with an incredibly creative mind, and could easily occupy myself with totally random things for long periods of time. If I had friends with me, that boredom really ceased to exist. If I ever blurted out “I’m bored” as a kid, it was probably because I was being dragged along to an activity or event that I didn’t want to be a part of. However, as I have gotten older, I’ve noticed that I have been bored a lot more often. Mainly, I tend to associate my hunger with being bored and I raid the fridge and pantry, which makes my mom crazy. I have become much more introverted, and tend to hang out with the same few people every day.
As I turned into a teenager, and as technology advances, boredom definitely changed for me. When I am bored, I am usually just playing on my phone for a while. Now, when I was younger, I could play with my barbies and make up stories, or play “family” with my sisters. Basically, I could make the most out of a blank space of area, whereas now I expect things to be laid out for me, and there is no creativity involved. Sure, boredom does lead to creativity and self sufficiency, but it just isn’t the same with technology.
When I was six and I complained about being “bored” my mom would make me do a puzzle, or work or school related games. Although they weren’t always the most fun, I knew that if I mentioned I was bored, my mom would give me something to do. As I’ve gotten older, this sort of control has vanished quite a bit. Now if I tell my mom I’m bored (which I rarely do), she’ll either roll her eyes or give me a task so unbearable that next time I would solve my boredom alone.
Boredom is your own fault
To me boredom is only up to one person, you. You can sit around all day and complain about how bored you are or you can do something about it. There are so many things out in the world that you have never done before you just need to go out there and explore. It’s not possible for a human to be bored unless they choose to be bored.
I try to avoid boredom at all costs by constantly using my phone, gaming, talking to friends, etc. The only time I used to allow myself to be bored was going to sleep, laying in bed waiting. But over my years of learning how to avoid boredom, I learned that if I use my phone long enough, and make myself tired enough, I can fall asleep immediately. I know this is a problem because I think best when I am bored, but I can’t. Sorry to myself I guess.
Boredom spawns creativity
When I’m bored, I tend to think. I am a very thoughtful person, and there’s almost always one crazy thought or another running through my brain. However, boredom leads to long trails of thinking, so captivating, amazing, and wonderful, and by the time you snap out of it you forget where you started.
Another mental habit of mine is “listening to music.” If I have a song memorized, I will play it back in my brain from start to finish, almost as if I am listening to the song. Just as I’m always thinking about something, there is always music in my head. Right now it’s “Lights Down Low,” but earlier it was “Pure Imagination” and “Girls Like You.”What I’m trying to say is, boredom truly is a great thing. Not only does it cause you to develop creativity and self-sufficiency, it also lets you discover your greatest source of entertainment: you.
Whenever my brain feels useless, my hands take over and start fiddling with whatever is around. Like Pamela Paul said, I have created some cool objects while trying to get out of being bored, such as a grappling hook and a catapult. I usually have an hour or two of free time per day, and I use it to play board games and read. Sometimes I feel bored, but I resolve it by inventing a game for myself, or grabbing a book that I have not read yet … Life is short and you should not spend you time splayed out on the couch, blaming you parents for not entertaining you.
Boredom pushes me to actually look for something interesting. It can keep me in bed or I can push past it and find something fun to do. I always try to work on something else, like sketching my dogs or another animal, writing stuff, or watching random Vine compilations/etc.
During the weekday, ive about a hour and a half or so of free time. Usually in that free time when im not playing my instruments, i am usually on my computer or phone, waiting for something to pop into my head, as i am scrolling through endless youtube videos trying to find something remotely interesting. That is when im bored. I do agree that boredom can spark creativity. I see this when i go fishing. While im waiting for a bite on the line, i find my mine wandering and thinking things that i can do that i would have never thought before.
When I’m feeling bored, I record a video of playing video games and edit it out. Then I upload it on Youtube. Or I practice my guitar or bass. I view spare time as a time to relax or do something you like.My parents think the same thing about spare time. Sometimes they say, don’t waste time and do something that will benefit you. Mostly, I’m always doing something like that. I have an average 12 hrs spare time each week. Each weekday goes this way: Wake up, eat breakfast, go to school, come home and eat dinner, then do homework, finally go to sleep. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are different because I have no set schedule. But I only get to have 3 hours of playing games or whatever I want each day, and somedays, I don’t have any time. Out of the whole week, I would only feel bored 1% of the time.
Me personally, whenever I’m bored, I either clean or bake. In my case, boredom causes productivity. If I’m never bored, my room would never be clean. So thankfully, I’m bored quite often. Boredom is a good thing, and although it seems intolerable, it is essential to living a full and balanced life.
Whenever I find myself in states of boredom, I always ask myself questions in order to stimulate any cognitive thought. These questions usually start out broad such as, “how was the universe created?” Eventually, these broad questions spiral into smaller ones such as “does religion actually support science’s claims?”, or “is the world just a free lunch?” Through these questions, I end up learning more than I could have thought of. In instances before, boredom helped me to discover Alan Guth’s theory of “a free lunch universe” and the philosophy and basis of religions such as Christianity that led me to “rediscovering” Catholicism, (before, I wasn’t too religious) protestantism and even Billy Graham … These times of deep thought led me to become a more thoughtful person, because I feel that my research trying to answer my questions developed my character in a positive influence.
Do You Enjoy Cold Weather?
The joys of winter
Personally, I love winter, I always have. I love the snowstorms, the warm cozy blankets, the hot chocolate, the ice skating, and the list goes on … I love the joy winter brings, and I don’t think it would be the worst thing in the world if we only had one season … Winter!!
I enjoy going outside and it’s snowing because it looks amazing and the fact that it only occurs a couple times a year makes it better because it doesn’t snow sometimes.
I like winter because of how picturesque and elegant it looks when it snows or rains. I like seeing the streets covered in snow or rain although some people might find it irritating, stressful, or slippery.
I thrive in the cold, but I don’t like wind. I love the winter because I can go skiing, sledding and basically do everything in the snow. I also like drinking hot chocolate, and coming inside, from outside in the snow, so I can run around in my pajamas. The only thing I don’t like about winter is that most outdoor events are canceled due to inclement weather, and that I have to wear boots a lot.
An excuse to stay inside
Personally, I hate the cold weather. Especially when I have to play soccer outside! It is so cold and with the wind chill it feels even more cold. My toes get numb and well my fingers, they get numb in 1 minute. Winter soccer is horrible but I do like playing outside with my friends when it’s snowing. We usually go outside for 1 hour or 2 and then we go in my house and have hot chocolate and then play video games. That’s why I like winter, we have a reason to stay inside and play video games all day.
Man, how much I would love to be there. No school, no work, tons of snow. I could just imagine sitting near a warm campfire under blankets eating a delicious feast, holidays all over again …I do feel bad for the lower middle class or poor people whose houses might be damaged, I can’t imagine how painful it is for the people living on the streets – 50 degrees, here in Philly it is considered super cold at 20 degrees.
I like cold temperatures in moderation. I do prefer it over warmer seasons. But I would not particularly enjoy dealing with a polar vortex. I enjoy winter weather, I think seeing a fluffy, white blanket of snow is nice and calming. It feels cleansing. I don’t enjoy the mixture of rain and snow, the large patches of ice, or intensive snowstorms. But for those days, when those do occur, I like to stay inside and watch anime while drinking a hot drink sitting on my bed piled in a few blankets and a couple pillows.
In my opinion, the cold weather is horrible and I don’t see how people can feel happy leaving their warm homes to the harsh winds and below freezing degrees to simply “play” outside … I admit I used to love playing in the snow then I kept on getting sick and I realized the cold wasn’t for me. Nowadays when it is snowing I like to spend my evenings in my bed binge watching Netflix and CW series and occasionally watching FOX series. Sometimes my family and I will play board/card games together. Then, watch a family movie together.
Freezing temperatures? No, thank you
Never, would I ever imagine dealing with low subzero temperatures. Absolute zero would be more than enough for me. But, -50 degree temperatures is too extreme. It would be the worst living nightmare I could ever have. People would be stuck in their homes, unable to even walk outside, because they would be risking frostbite or even worst. People would need to shut all their windows, and make a bonfire out of their fireplaces. I could imagine they would be wearing a full-blown winter suit inside their homes too.
Personally, I do not like cold weather. I think it is inconvenient, troublesome, annoying, and can feel like needles piercing at your skin. I don’t mind when it is a few degrees lower than normal temperatures but I don’t think I would be able to stand a polar vortex. It is fun when we have off from school because of snow and blizzards but pretty white snow can also come with many dangers and inconveniences. Snow makes the roads dangerous for drivers and getting anywhere becomes an issue, stores are full of people because everyone is afraid of being stuck at home because of the weather, and wearing all those layers always feels like you are locked up in a box.
I really dislike winter weather, I would much rather it be 75 degrees and sunny then 10 degrees and snowing. I’d rather be swimming in a pool then standing next to a space heater with 3 sweatshirts and pairs of pants on. I don’t like the winter because everything seems so gloomy, all the trees are hibernating, it gets dark at 4:30 PM, there are no birds and basically any wildlife which is a little sad.
I take public transportation, and when it snows everything slows down. Buses have been over two and a half hours late before and than you wait two more hours to get home because of traffic. Other than being soaked and miserable waiting for the bus, winter is a good season (mainly because of winter break).