For the past couple of weeks in Current Events Conversation, we’ve been challenging students to talk to each other in the comments sections of our writing prompts.
This week, we want to point out a few of the unique benefits they get from interacting with each other in our online forum — and, of course, highlight student examples of each.
Students get the chance to interact with people from all over the world in our comments section. These interactions might offer them a new perspective on a topic or challenge them to think differently.
This week, we saw many students from Taipei, Taiwan responding to American students on our prompt “Have You Ever Felt Like an Outsider?” For example, Astrid Hagen, Avy, Regina Wu, Sarahlin, Kristen and Chen Yu Ping all related their experiences of feeling like outsiders at their school to those of teenagers halfway across the world in North Carolina, Alabama and New Jersey.
All of the comments that appear on our site are moderated by Learning Network editors. This gives students a unique opportunity to engage in civil conversations around tough topics.
This week, we saw respectful back-and-forth in a thread on our prompt “What Is Hard About Being a Boy?” from Will Mason from Hoggard High School, Sabrina Mintz from Masterman, Philadelphia, Hope A from Masterman, Philly, Lily Sklaver from J.R Masterman School, Philadelphia, Samuel Hamilton from Masterman and Nico M. from J.R Masterman School, Philadelphia.
And we loved to see many other students from J.R. Masterman School, like Anna Praticò, G Jap, Sivan Frankel, Tino K. and Ian Birley, pushing back on and agreeing with specific points made by their fellow commenters.
By replying to and recommending each other’s comments, students get validation for their ideas, feelings and experiences from their peers. Hsun from Taiwan, Hanna Sh from J.R. Masterman, Philadelphia, PA, and Kristina Kitsul from Masterman Philadelphia are just a few of the students who gave that kind of affirmation to others this week.
Keep up the great work, everyone! We look forward to the conversations we get to read and call out next week.
Please note: All student comments have been lightly edited for length, but otherwise appear as they were originally submitted.
What Is Hard About Being a Boy?
In his Op-Ed, “It’s Dangerous to Be a Boy,” Michael C. Reichert writes about the unique challenges boys face, like violence against themselves and others. Their tendency toward aggression isn’t necessarily innate, he writes, but “rooted in boys’ socialization, which is characterized by physical discipline, control and disdain for weakness.”
In our related Student Opinion question, we asked students about the specific pressures boys face. Teenagers who identified as both boys and girls weighed in, sharing their honest experiences, observations and opinions about what it’s like to grow up as a boy in today’s world.
Suppressing your emotions
As a boy in our society, I know the expectations that are set for us. We are supposed to be emotionless, like rocks and we are told that we can’t express ourselves and that we should never show weakness in any form. I think that this is the reason that males are so competitive. This competitiveness causes insecurity and insecurity causes aggression and aggression causes health risks. In all, it’s one big slippery slope that leads to danger and that is the biggest problem, physical harm.
… Guys pretend we are big and strong and as if we don’t have any emotions but, some times I just want to break down and cry and say I’m done. Than I would be a quitter or some words my dad would say that I don’t think would be really good to put here in the comment section. Also I am an athlete in sports we are preform not only for ourselves or team or our school but for our family our last name because what we do or the actions we make reflect on our last name. So in conclusion just because we act like nothing is going on or we don’t get hurt guys also have many thoughts and emotions going through our minds.
Being a guy is great, but sometimes it definitely sucks. Like having to put on masks to hide behind. It’s honestly exhausting sometimes to have to act different than you really are. And I’m sure that no one would even care if you acted like your true self but it’s something about us that doesn’t let us do it.
Being encouraged to be violent
I am a boy, and I sometimes feel the pressure to be ¨tough¨ and ¨strong¨. I think the hardest thing about being a boy (this was mentioned in the article) is that you can never back down from a fight. For example, I once got into an argument about basketball and a person told me to stay away and not play, and several players that were already playing said ¨you´re going to take that?¨. I felt as if not standing up would make me seem weak.
During this day and age we have so many articles talking about the violence in men and boys and I think that’s the biggest problem nowadays. Men are often seen as violent and when you have tons of people believing that every man has a violent side to them than that starts out casting the men because believe it or not men do not want to hurt people. As a 6 ft 175 pound teenager I have been looked at weirdly and people often think that I could be violent when it’s the complete opposite. I simply don’t care when it comes to violence and I think a lot of other men stand with me when I say that the only time I ever even think of violence is when i’m in a threatening situation. It’s as simple as that.
Facing the pressure to conform
The hardest part about being a boy is the fact that we are told to be tough, play sports, and conceal our emotions. As a kid, I faced a lot of pressure from my Dad and society to conform. I ended up singing, acting, and playing in the marching band instead of conforming to the manly world of sports. I learned how to “be a man” from my Dad and just growing up with other males. I danced when I was younger, and got bullied during elementary school. This bullying and pressure made me quit something I love. Society expected I tackle a random kid in football, and instead I went and danced. I don’t know why breaking those norms isn’t celebrated …
Parents don’t understand that boys are just as emotional as girls. Boys still want to break down and cry, but society doesn’t promote that to be okay. I think it was harder to be a man during my parents time, and that’s why I have faced pressure to “be a man.” Parents need to find ways to cope with the fact that “being a man” is much less important than the happiness of their child. They should express themselves in any way they choose.
Society has many stereotypes, but the strongest stereotypes are for races and genders. Society has stereotypes, first, that there should only be two genders, although LGBTQIA people are gaining more acceptance by society, for all the time before that there was absolutely no acceptance for these people! The male stereotype is that all males should be strong, tough, play a sport, or multiple, and slightly violent, yet charming and handsome, as society does not accept “ugly” people either! In this day and age, males are stereotyped to enjoy video games as well, while females are not allowed to, by the stereotypes of society! If a male wants to do anything that is not within this stereotype, or not do something that is listed in the stereotype, they are severely punished by society by way of social isolation or social exclusion! This is why it is very hard to be unique in society, because unless it is popular, society will just push you out and pretend like you aren’t even there, and just carry on like normal. It is hard for anyone of any gender, race, religion, or ethnicity to uphold these societal norms, because they are so strict and have such a severe punishment!
I feel like the hardest thing about being a boy is dealing with people with more old fashion views and stereotypes. In the best case scenario, this would mean someone making a positive assumption about me. Unfortunately, this often ends up giving people negative and false assumptions. I also see this among younger people when they see I have some traits of a “stereotypical boy” and assume I, therefore, am a “stereotypical boy”. While I do some “stereotypical boy” things, I am annoyed by peoples assumptions that I do other “stereotypical boy” things.
Stereotypes are dark and dangerous things, this is because people are, for better or for worse, not like robots. Every person is different from everyone else in at least one way, this makes it impossible to find a mean of all humans. Stereotypes are failed attempts at finding a mean that often ends up offending people. All in all, stereotypes are people trying to create a being that describes everyone and failing because of how diverse human nature is.
Defending your point of view
When I first read this title, I was hesitant to write on this topic. I was hesitant to share my opinion on the matter because often times I find that my opinion is valued as lesser because of my privilege. I find that to be one of the most difficult things about being a white male in America because we are often told that our opinions do not matter. We cannot speak on controversial topics without first accepting some sort of fault or blame. I understand the great privilege that I have to be a white male and I get that I will never know what some others have to go through daily. But I try to. I try to be understanding of all and try to put myself in a position of support wherever necessary. However, I constantly feel that my support is not welcome because of who I am. It is discouraging to feel shunned by people who share political and social views as me, just because of the way I present. I know that I will never be able to change who I am, but my appearance is not all that defines me. I am understanding and caring and want to help others. It seems unfair to me that I am socially punished for things done generations ago by people whom I have no connection to other than gender and color of skin. I hate to even speak about this because I fear I am running the risk of sounding ignorant, and that is not what I want. I just find it frustrating that sexism is ignored if it is done on men.
Embracing the positive aspects of masculinity
I feel that there are many trade-offs to being a man. The social norm for a man in almost every culture is to be the protector and provider. Men are the only ones to be conscripted into the military during times of crisis and also are expected to work to support their families. These are the responsibilities which are associated with manhood and, for the most part, are at the expense and not benefit of men …
Despite all of these things, I greatly appreciate my boyhood and, later, my manhood, as these things which we call responsibilities appeal to me. I would feel proud to be a father, husband, and working man for my family. I would also be glad to serve in the military for my country. I enjoy what some people consider “rough-and-tumble guy activities”. So, from a personal perspective, the things which some may consider as “derogatory stereotypes” are the very same things which I embrace as part of my identity as a guy.
Since the beginning of time, masculinity has been a part of our society and has been expected from our men. They have been our protectors and fighters and risked their lives to save their families. So why are questioning masculinity now? Isn’t it something we can’t change and men should deal with the struggles that everyone goes through?
Every human on this earth goes through troubles, whether it be with money, friends, family, or themselves. Both male and females deal with social structures in life and can never escape them. Men should do what they want and not be told by other people whether they’re too feminine or masculine. They also shouldn’t be scrutinized for just being a man; they naturally have more testosterone and will act out in fights or by driving aggressively. By saying that anyone won’t act out naturally is like saying that people won’t be sad, happy, or jealous.
If men just stop being men, the world would be ruined. We have men and women for a reason, and both of their roles in society are crucial. By saying one should change to act more like the other is counter-intuitive.
The Romans didn’t take over Gaul or Germania by talking their way out of it. We sometimes do need force and strength, despite common belief. We’re going to have another war someday, and we’ll need strong-minded people to fight in it.
I really do not think that being a guy is as hard as being a girl in society as of right now. We don’t have to worry about having a good body and aren’t looked down upon for being “perfect”. I will say that being a guy you are not supposed to open up about anything and should keep everything to yourself. I think a good thing about being a man though is that we are born with respect and don’t necessarily need to work as hard as women as we are born more physically advanced … Overall it is a lot easier to be a man in our society now as we don’t have to work as hard for what we want and don’t have to try to be someone that we aren’t.
Girls reflecting on the hardships boys face
As an older sister, I have observed that my younger brother is constantly encouraged to be interested in toy guns or sports and met with a disapproving look if he speaks about participating in the arts or a more traditionally “feminine” activity. When my sisters and I were younger we were encouraged to participate on whatever we set our minds on; whether that be sports, music, or science. The world was ours for the taking. In elementary schools we were described as either Tom Boys or Girly Girls or something in between, but for many of my young male friends they were either boys or wimps.
I am a girl so I don’t personally know the struggles of a boy but from what I have witnessed, there is a struggle with gender bias/gender image and trying to fit in…My brother was made fun of because he played ping pong instead of basketball. He said he would rather do something he was good at then get hurt playing a sport he was only slightly interested in. He didn’t really care what others were saying about him (calling him a nerd, etc), but this goes to show the stereotypes we still have today. Yes, we have come a long way from the past but there is still much room for improvement towards how society views gender roles and each other.
I have never felt the need to pretend to be another person around my friends, but I observe that my brother does. He also doesn’t talk to his friends about matters of the soul, which is emotionally stunting. I will never pretend that boys’ relative incapacity for deep friendships is in any way equivalent to the systematic abuse girls face, even today. But it is a problem that will harm them in the long run, and ultimately make their lives less meaningful.
I believe that there area lot of hard things about being a boy, through i am not one myself. Some of the difficult things about being a boy is the stigma around you showing emotions, if a boy cries he is called “Too sensitive”, but if he shows no emotions at all he is called “Too scary, psychopathic, and you should be more sensitive.”…Not only that but if a male is in an abusive relationship whether it me physically, or emotionally he just has to take it, and he the male does fight back for self protection he is the villain.
Both boys and girls just have a lot of problems. If you are a boy and you do the right thing, your a goodie goodie. You do the wrong thing, and nobody likes you because your “bad.” Boys also feel the pressure to have a deep, manly voice when they are in middle school and still talk like munchkins. Now even though boys have it hard, girls have it way harder. So much of my time is spent on shopping, showering, moisturizing, outfit planning, putting make up on, doing my hair, and trying to be this perfectly groomed barbie that people expect me to be. All of my money is spent on beauty products and whatever will make me more confident. Most girls have confidence issues. We all think we are fat and are constantly on weird diets and cleanses just trying to lose a couple pounds. In conclusion, everyone is going through something tough, Life is hard and we should all learn to respect each other and our challenges.
Would You Want to Live a Life Without Ever Feeling Pain?
Jo Cameron, 71, has a rare genetic mutation that keeps her from feeling pain or anxiety, according to a new scientific report. Researchers hope the finding can help develop more effective treatments for pain.CreditCreditMary Turner for The New York Times
Last week, The Times reported a story about a woman who, due to a rare genetic mutation, has never experienced pain or anxiety. We asked students: Would they want to live such a life? How might their lives be different without any pain — physical or psychological? Has pain ever been beneficial to them?
Most students said no, they would not want to live a pain-free existence and we appreciated the robust reasoning they used to support their opinions. Below, they tell us about the many roles pain has played in their lives — from signaling danger and teaching them hard lessons to helping them appreciate the good things in life.
The necessity of physical pain
Life without pain might sound like a cool superpower simply because without pain you feel invincible and nothing can hurt you but, there are serious threats to your body that could be present and you would never know. Lets say you were cooking and watching tv, and you lean on the counter, after a few minutes you notice that you have a 3rd degree burn. Listen, pain is an excellent teacher, it helps us learn and adapt to our surroundings, and plus feeling anything is one of our primary senses. Pain is necessary.
Pain is a part of life. You can’t learn without experience the pain of struggle or fear. In a life without fear, I wouldn’t trust myself. There would be nothing holding me back and I wouldn’t know when to stop. I would end up in situations that could endanger myself and others.
Pain is something people have to learn in order to know the dangers of different things. Pain can be very hard but we still have to go through it physically and emotionally in order to grow and learn. I think if I didn’t have pain my life would be different because then I wouldn’t know the dangers of a lot of stuff and would never learn pain.
The benefits of emotional pain
Not feeling pain sounds like a pretty good life, but I don’t think I would want it. I feel as though you need to feel pain in life in order to get stronger. Sometimes it’s good to be scared or have anxiety. It can also be fun being scared like when you’re on a roller coaster or going through a haunted house. I would definitely be happy if some of my pain in life was relieved, but pain only helps me in the end. Personally I wouldn’t want to live a life without pain. Pain is a part of life and I want to experience life at its fullest.
… She can’t feel emotional pain. At first, that sounds good, but you wouldn’t ever be able to people. It would give you an incredible lack of empathy.
A life without struggle is no life at all
I think that a life without hardships is almost meaningless. Both emotional and physical pain are very important in one’s growth and maturity. Yes it would be nice to be able to do whatever you want knowing you wouldn’t get hurt in the end but pain is essential to human sympathy and teaches you things that would otherwise be unknown to you. In conclusion, I don’t believe that a life without pain or sadness in it could truly be a happy one.
Pain and anxiety is what drives us to persevere through the hard times in life. We would have never been able to walk had we not fallen down and felt the pain of failure. We would have never learned how to ride a bike if we hadn’t fallen and felt the anxiety of getting back up and trying again. We would have never found our true love if it wasn’t for our countless heartbreaks prior. This process repeats itself throughout the entirety of our lives. Pain and failure is what motivates us to be better, and without it we would have no drive to excel.
I think pain ,both mental and physical, is essential to growth as an individual. Without pain you would never truly be able to appreciate the positive feelings. A life without pain would be bland, it would be tasteless and uneventful. Heartbreak and mental toll has been whats shaped me into the person I am. Struggle builds character, and mental strength. Hurt is like a vaccine, immunizing you for future devastation. I truly feel sorry for the woman in the article, a woman that will never get to experience the bittersweet taste of pain.
Appreciating the highs and lows of life
Pain is necessary to enjoy life to the fullest, and experience emotions intensely. In my opinion, the good parts of life would not be as enjoyable if we did not experience pain prior to them. A clear, sunny day is always valued more when it follows a week of rain and gloom. In a similar way, I always feel more appreciative of my good health in the days that I recover from sickness. In life, there will be highs and lows, good and bad. It is important to remember the times of struggle and suffering to value the good and beautiful aspects of life.
Life without pain would be a tough life to live. Pain makes the good moments that much better. And if there is no pain, then is there good? Or is everything just neutral? As much as pain hurts, at least you know that you are real, alive, and can feel something.
I can’t imagine how nice it would be to live without pain. Without fear, anxiety or depression. Oh how nice it would be to eat one of those Scotch Bonnet chili peppers and only feel a “pleasant glow”. But while reading this article, a song was repeating in my head.“100 Bad Days”, by AJR. I even took a second to bob my head to the chorus, “100 bad days makes 100 good stories …” and I began to think, without pain, can you even have a bad day? And if you never have a bad day, what is your story? Now I think living in a world without pain is like living blind. It’s like how without darkness, you would forget to appreciate the light. And if you get lost in the darkness, you have to find your way out, and from that journey you have to find strength and that struggle makes you who you are.
No pain, no problems
… I think that losing all pain would be well worth it for me. A painless life would be so much easier. I’d make sure to briefly check my body every night, and thoroughly once a week. That way I could ensure that if anything is wrong I could check in with a doctor. As for emotional pain, that would truly give someone a great life. With no anxiety, every aspect of life becomes easier. No more stressing about, tests, auditions, or performances. Without anxiety, the overwhelming majority of stress would completely diminish. This sounds extremely appealing and I feel that life would be overall much easier. A life without pain would be almost entirely beneficial, and I would definitely take that option if made available.
I would want to live life without feeling pain. Some of the advantages of life without pain would be amazing. Not only that but no psychological pain would be amazing with anxiety and depression. If I lived life without pain my life would 100% be different. I would be so much happier than I am right now. I would be doing so much other stuff than just the usual stuff that I do. I would for sure choose pain free over adrenaline rush in my life.
If we could live without pain It would be a whole different experience of the world and life. The reason I say this is because if we didn’t have pain we would be more happier and the things that made us sad or cause depression would of been a different thing with a greater situation. There would also not be so much suicide or overdose people going on.
How Do You Know It’s Spring Where You Live?
In celebration of the season, we asked students in our Picture Prompt, “Signs of Spring,” what sights, sounds, smells and feelings tell them the seasons are changing in their neighborhoods. We loved the vivid imagery they used to describe the budding plants, warm temperatures and feelings of change that signal the coming of spring where they live.
April showers and May flowers
I fully believe that April showers do bring May flowers but the rain is just as beautiful as the greenery that Earth so kindly shares with us. With the temperature being welcoming, time spent outside is more gratifying. Walking in the open air rejuvenates my body when the smells of flowers coming to life overcome my senses. Nothing can bring me more joy than knowing the bees and butterflies are peacefully working hard to keep this planet absolutely stunning.
Living in a small Jersey Shore town our springtime is the calm before the chaos. It is when I get to fully enjoy my hometown because when the town of Point Pleasant is almost overflowing in the summer, I can not immerse myself in it’s small yet meaningful beauties.
The flowers start to bloom, and yard (that you different have to cut all winter) starts growing again, and the pollen begins to form in the air like fog. The pollen is a big sign of spring because you will go outside and your black car will be yellow, which means your allergies will begin to start acting up for those two or three weeks you when have to keep blowing your nose constantly.
Because I’m from North Carolina, the beginning of spring is clearly expressed through the arrival of blooming azaleas. Personally, I don’t really pay attention to the plants in my yard and others around my neighborhood, but every year, as soon as they bloom, I notice the azaleas all over my yard and around my neighborhood, which I didn’t notice before. I love seeing the different colors of azaleas people have, and if they match the houses or not. Spring is a really beautiful time where I live …
Spring is something else; everything gets brighter and prettier, the weather gets warmer, and summer gets closer. I used to not like spring because it was too “inbetween,” but as I get older I begin to appreciate it more.
One word. Fishing. Since I live on the Jersey Shore, I love to be on the water and go fishing. With the warmer weather falling down upon us and the beginning of April, I know, Spring is here. This upcoming Saturday is the opening day for trout fishing. Trout are usually the first fish I am able to fish for during the new year. So this Saturday, over a hundred anglers line up on the edge of Spring Lake, all waiting for their chance to catch some trout.
Spring is the best time of the year, especially when you live a mile away from the beach. The weather is perfect — warm and sunny but not humid yet, and you no longer need a jacket to leave the house. Personally, I find the winter weather to be miserable and I would rather stay in my house than face the cold. I think a lot of people agree with me, because as soon as the temperature rises above sixty five degrees, it seems as if the whole town is out.
But that is also what I love about spring. The warmer weather brings our town together when everybody is out interacting with each other, instead of sitting inside their own homes. Spring is something to look forward to because this means it is finally time to go to the beach again. It is time for all of the birds to start waking up the neighborhood again with their chirping and to finally be able to open up the windows in your house and car, just enjoy the fresh air. Overall, spring is a sign of happiness for me, and that is why it is something to look forward to.
I always look forward to the arrival of spring. Spring means new beginnings, a fresh new season of opportunity. For me specifically, every year as the leaves turn back to green and pollen begins to stick to cars, it means one step closer to summer. The air turns warmer, the breeze cooler, and the sun shines brighter than it has in months. You get to shed the heavy winter coats and boots and put on a pair of shorts and flip flops. Living close to the beach, spring means the beginning of long awaited beach trips and boat rides for my friends and I. The anticipation and lead up to summer is the reason I will always look forward to spring.
Rebirth, change and new beginnings
There are so many ways to see that it is becoming spring in my hometown. The warm sun beats down and turns my skin a nice, golden brown. The birds begin chirping loudly in the mornings earlier and earlier. The flowers that I planted last fall begin to bloom in a rainbow of colors. I always look forward to the arrival of spring. Spring is rebirth. For everyone and everything. It’s a nice breath of fresh air after a long, dead winter.
Living in New England, we’re usually treated to last minute snowfall well after the vernal equinox. Still, I know Spring is coming when my parakeets begin to chirp incessantly, all day long. I also love seeing purple crocuses emerge from the ground outside my house- I never see them in such high quantities anywhere else.
This year I’m more anxious about the progression of Winter into Spring and Spring into Summer, though, because my junior year of high school has passed so quickly that it’s overwhelming, and soon my senior friends will be leaving and I’ll have to make college decisions. Hopefully Spring will last for a while.