Commentary: Why are high schoolers afraid to speak up in class?

Sandra Balaban and Samuel Abrams
RealClear Education

Excerpt: Whether it’s climate change, criminal justice, immigration, the global pandemic, or government reform, there is often little agreement on how to manage the most pressing issues of our time. Though differences on these issues are often intense, we can create positive civic change only by discussing and debating them across multiple perspectives.

Students created a survey on how freedom of expression plays out in schools today, similar to the surveys administered to college students. They collected responses from over 250 teens from a broad range of public and private high schools. Though the sample may be small and imperfect, many of its results are nonetheless sobering. The survey data reveal that a significant number of student respondents are not comfortable sharing their thoughts in school. Sixty percent of students surveyed say that they have felt they could not express their opinions on a subject because of how students, teachers, or the administration would respond.