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Dr. Robert Epstein

Wow! What an incredible blog! I especially like your idea about having students assign their own grades. What a powerful way of acknowledging their competence. As for competency testing for young people, it's actually quite an easy and practical thing to do, with hundreds of precedents in our society. We require plumbers, electricians, lawyers, physicians, and people in dozens of other professions to take such tests, and we don't let young people drive unless they can pass such a test. People can't even go fishing in many areas of the U.S. without obtaining a fishing license. Allowing young people to enter the adult world in various ways by passing tests serves both their needs and ours: It gives them a way to demonstrate their ability, take on real responsibility, and escape from teen culture, while it also guarantees to adults that the people entering the adult world are truly ready (with the new rights subject to revocation if abused, of course - just as adult rights can be revoked). If young people have incentives and opportunities to enter the adult world, they'll do so by the millions - focusing on learning and mastering the information they need to make the transition - in other words, focusing their efforts on what they need to do to grow up. The alternative is what we have: an adversarial relationship with our own offspring, teens by the millions doing risky adult things in secret and lying about what they do, teens by the millions depressed and angry. We now have 5.5 millions teens in counseling and 2 million attempted suicides each year by teens, and we're spending more money on psychoactive drugs for teens than on all other prescription medications combined. Competency testing will solve these problems virtually overnight, and I've never seen a better proposal - or any proposal, for that matter.


Running the English class as a reading/writing workshop (yes, even in high school) opens up "choice" in both what the students write about and what they read. My experience with seniors is that they complain/brag that they have not read so many books in their entire high school career. They are smarter than we give them credit for.


Seeing as I am only a sophomore in college, it wasn't that long ago I was a student in a high school classroom. After reading this blog it made me think back to my experiences in classroom during my adolescence. Truth be told, we were given very little responsibility and perhaps too much leeway. In turn, I noticed that not only had we been “infantilized” but we also were not prepared for the world ahead of us. In just my short two years in college, I have seen five good friends drop out because they were not prepared enough. I think by “infantilizing” adolescents, we are not only setting them up for possible anger and rebellion but more so for failure. Just by instituting the simple ideas you and your colleagues came up with make a major difference in the classroom.

Pam F

Responsibility and teenagers. Now that seems like an oxymoron, but where else are the students going to learn it when so many parents today continue to hand-hold their kids all the way through high school – and beyond! I really like the idea of giving the students the responsibility for grading themselves (on a limited basis and on appropriate subject matter). I’d like to try to incorporate that into my teaching - when I begin teaching. I’m curious to see what changes/results that would bring. I also like the idea of teaching the students to be more reflective about their learning. It seems the students would retain the learned knowledge so much better. First, however, I have to learn how to be more reflective, and I’m hoping to work on that throughout my remaining preparation work to become a teacher.


I completely agree with the statement that we infantilize adolescents. I remember being a senior in high school and living in frustration every day because I was being told when to eat and when to pee. I thought, "Cleopatra was my age when she took the throne for cryin' out loud!" When you mentioned the pregnant girl under 18 who was unable to make her own medical descisions I recalled how 100 years ago it was typical for a girl to have more than one child by the age of 18, and to be running a household besides. It really serves to confirm how important it is to have respect for our students' maturity.

Sara Nitschke

I think the author of this book has found the key to the problems with today’s adolescents. My teenage years weren’t too long ago and I longed to be treated like an adult. The source of my angst was in discovering injustices in the world and feeling powerless to do anything. Imagine if teenagers with all of their energy for change were given the chance to do something with their free spirited ideas. Kids like this (and me and other little Lisa Simspons) are so sick of the adult world and it’s injustice, but by the time we reach the age of being able to change we become complacent. Imagine if teenagers with all of the energy and drive were given the power to make a difference and told their thoughts were worthwhile. The change that everyone wants to see in the world would be a much quicker process.


I think that the idea of giving students more responsibilities in the classroom is very interesting. I have only been out of high school for two years and I remember feeling so constricted in the classroom. I think that giving student’s assigned tasks would help them feel more comfortable in the classroom. Students will feel like they are a part in the class, not just a body in a chair. I also like the idea of students being able to grade themselves, as long as the teacher has the final say. I feel that this would increase the students drive to study and get better grades. In a normal scenario, students get their graded work back and just look at the grade they were given, never really giving it much thought after that. If the student grades their own work and then gives reason why they deserve that grade, it would really motivate them to understand the material and want to understand it. It would force the student to really question their understanding of the material. Overall, I think it would be great. The students will feel more responsible for their work, leading them to strive for above and beyond instead of just trying to “pass the class”.

Mike Richardson

I think that giving students more responsibility and choices in the classroom is certainly a great idea. When a teacher has enough faith in their students to make them responsible for their own learning, the students will also have greater expectations for their learning. I think that a teacher who expects a lot out of their students tends to see greater growth and learning from their students. If a teacher doesn’t believe their students are capable of great growth, it is unlikely that much will occur. Giving them choices will also allow the students to learn things that they find interesting and relevant. This can also eliminate the students from feeling like they are being “forced” to learning something that they don’t like. As far as allowing students to grade themselves, I think that it is a great idea. Obviously this is something that cannot be used all the time, but I think it would work great for papers and projects.


Hi. My name is Angela and I am a student of education at Illinois State University. I think the idea of the angst-y teen as a western post-industrial construct is really interesting and I wonder how other cultures treat their teenagers. I think teens feel frustrated because they are at an age where they can do so many more things like think in the abstract, have deep philosophical discussions, drive, and even have kids of their own! Yet we are still trying to shelter them. It is no wonder they feel angst and turmoil with all these contradictions. The number age of 18 does not magically make someone more mature. There are many teens who could act responsibly long before this age. I think if we act more as guides and point toward the answers rather than hold their hands and GIVE them the answers, they will become more independent and this independence can make anyone feel more confident and in control of their lives rather than feeling like an order-taker. They need to learn how to be able to teach themselves. I think what it comes down to with teens, is that they are looking for r-e-s-p-e-c-t. They are now capable of contributing more to society and they want to be heard and acknowledged as useful and mature. I think as teachers teaching this age group, we should work with teens on a level of mutual respect rather than working against them.


It’s funny that you say “as a result of this infatilization that adolescents are angry, depressed, and rebellious”, because that is something I would like to see the statistics on. I could see that our ability to “baby” the individual may cause the action to act out which would exemplified by angry, depressed, and rebellious acts. One thing I did enjoy, but was not quite sure on was how the process of letting the students select their own grade works it self out. Also do the students know that they will be able to argue or set their own grade at the beginning of the year or is this an end of the semester surprise. Lastly what other suggestions would you make for tasks suitable for the students to complete in the classroom in order to keep the angry, depressed and rebellious sides of students away?


Thats an idea, have people earn what they take for granted now. I'm supporting that!


Thats an idea, have people earn what they take for granted now. I'm supporting that!

Essay Writer

I really liked the idea and I fully support it.

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