Opinion | Let’s Hear What High Schoolers Think

To the Editor:

Re “Senate Votes to Combat Anti-Asian Hate Crimes” (news article, April 23):

As an Asian-American, I applaud the Senate’s swift, bipartisan passage of the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act. The measure, however, constitutes a mere first step in the fight against anti-Asian violence. To further combat such bigotry, we must also promote Asian-American representation in education curriculums.

Teaching the Asian-American experience is imperative because U.S. history chroniclers often neglect it. In most textbooks, we’re invisible, relegated to a few short paragraphs, even footnotes. That erases our stories from the record, perpetuating ignorance and contributing to our mischaracterization as a monolithic “model minority” or foreign threat, thus allowing xenophobia and discrimination to take root.

How, then, might we remedy this harmful narrative absence? Mandate comprehensive Asian-American studies. States could incorporate Asian-American history lessons into curriculum plans, placing emphasis on both overlooked milestones and figures in fields like politics. Just by increasing awareness, we’d help dismantle dangerous Asian-American stereotypes.

The momentum for this initiative is there, too. Illinois’s Legislature is poised to approve a bill requiring public schools statewide to include a class unit on Asian-American history. The entire nation should follow Illinois’s example.

Henry Hsiao
Princeton, N.J.
West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North, 11th grade

To the Editor:

Re “The Emotional Toll at One School,” by Annie Brown (Inside The Times, April 30):

Life right now feels a lot like a game of Jenga. Junior year in high school presents the constant need to build higher and higher, with each block leading closer and closer to a breaking point. When that breaking point comes, you are left to do nothing but watch in slow motion as everything crumbles.

I’ve been crumbling a lot lately; I think a lot of us have. Ms. Brown aptly says we are in a mental health crisis, and it seems the pandemic has really brought a light to it. I’ve been seeing an increase in the slogan “Mental Health Matters!” But does it? If it did, wouldn’t more adults be pushing for funding in-school therapists? Advocating for the abolition of standardized testing? Actually listening and doing something about it?

So does my mental health matter? Does any of ours really matter? A lot of us are feeling like Joanna Lopez, the high school senior whom Ms. Brown writes about. We’ve lost hope, motivation and normal sleep schedules, as our mental health has gone down the drain. So I think it’s about time our mental health actually starts to matter, because I’m really tired of this game.

Sophia Mutell
Simi Valley, Calif.
Chaminade College Preparatory, 11th grade

To the Editor:

Re “Why is Perimenopause Still Such a Mystery?,” by Jessica Grose (Well, April 29):

Angie McKaig is one of many who have been affected by the stigma surrounding menstruation. In recent months, hundreds of people who menstruate have reported abnormal changes in their menstrual cycle after being tear-gassed during protests last summer. Others have brought up changes in their periods after receiving the Covid-19 vaccine. And, of course, countless others suffer from diseases like endometriosis that are directly linked to menstruation.

When I founded my high school’s chapter of a menstrual equity and advocacy club last fall, I knew there was a stigma surrounding menstruation, but I’ve only recently come to realize just how devastating its effects can be. While some of these impacts are temporary, they collectively expose a major gap in medical treatment and biological research.

Ms. McKaig’s efforts to normalize perimenopause, within the medical community and the broader public (including those who menstruate and those who don’t), will work toward destroying the stigma surrounding menstruation. When this stigma is gone, it is my hope that adequate research will finally be able to be conducted, which will make modern medicine more equitable and ultimately provide better health outcomes for people who menstruate.

Josie West
New York
Hunter College High School, 11th grade

To the Editor:

Re “Race and the Coming Liberal Jolt,” by Bret Stephens (column, April 27):

It is important to recognize that not every exchange between a Black person and a police officer that ends violently is a case of police brutality. Automatically labeling cases as such is counterproductive. That said, police brutality is still a real issue.

Mr. Stephens says we should “recognize that young Black men commit violent crimes at a terribly disproportionate rate.” We should recognize that there are systems in place that contribute to this, such as the school-to-prison pipeline, modern-day segregation and the African-American family structure resulting from slavery.

Mr. Stephens goes on to say that “white privilege” is a strange concept to working-class whites. Having white privilege does not mean you don’t suffer, but it does mean that you don’t suffer because of racial discrimination.

Police brutality is real. Instead of arguing, liberals and conservatives should focus on saving Black lives. People are dying.

Nivriti Agaram
Monroe Township, N.J.
Monroe Township High School, 11th grade

To the Editor:

Re “Pandemic Spurs Interest in Teaching Financial Literacy” (Business, April 3):

A financial literacy course should be mandated in all schools. From covering topics like Roth I.R.A.s and credit cards to different investment opportunities such as real estate and the stock market, a financial literacy course will allow students to gain a wide array of knowledge useful to their future.

More people are on the brink of poverty than ever before, and learning about financial literacy could help young adults steer clear of going into tens of thousands of dollars of debt that takes years to pay off. I believe that personal finance should be made a mandatory class. A solid financial literacy course should not only be slides, lessons and tests; students should also have the chance to run stock market simulators and have their own investment portfolio, in which they can choose where to spend their money and see it grow.

It is more important than ever to be financially literate since the pandemic has affected countless individuals and left them financially stranded. People who are financially literate often are better able to remain on their feet.

Kaiwen Zhang
Sunnyvale, Calif.
Archbishop Mitty High School, 9th grade

To the Editor:

Re “Again, Top City Schools Take Very Few Students Who Are Black or Latino” (news article, April 30):

I am one of the few Black students at Bronx High School of Science. I am exhausted from reading the dismal statistics every year. When admissions to the specialized high schools rely solely on tests that some students view as “the way out” because the schools nearby are underfunded and not rigorous enough, there is a problem.

The test should be eliminated; instead we should focus on creating great “specialized” schools in every corner of the city. There is no need for the hypercompetitive test prep that affluent families can easily afford or impoverished families have to sacrifice for. Elite colleges and universities do not depend on a single test for their admissions, but no one denies their merit.

The test, and the conditions surrounding the test, cannot be impartial to race when only 9 percent of offers to specialized high schools go to Black and Latino students, who make up the majority of the New York City public school system.

Dorothea Dwomoh
Bronx
Bronx High School of Science, 11th grade

To the Editor:

Re “Let’s Launch a Moonshot for Meatless Meat,” by Ezra Klein (column, May 3):

As someone who has followed a carnivorous diet for most of my life and just recently made the transition into vegetarianism, I agree with many of the points made in this article. There is little chance that the modern American diet in every household will become completely plant-based, but there is so much research to support not only the benefits of reducing meat consumption, but the feasibility as well.

People are, of course, entitled to consume whatever animal products they want to, but there has to be more government intervention in regard to the treatment of these animals and the drastic effects that this mistreatment has not only on us as humans, but on the planet as well. By encouraging farmers to make the transition into plant agriculture, the United States has the opportunity to lead the way in the fight against harmful animal agriculture practices.

There must be more legislation introduced to spread awareness of these issues. We should not merely strive to reduce our harm to the planet, but we should also do our best to undo the damage that has already been done.

Caitlyn Tyrrell
Stamford, Conn.
Westhill High School, 12th grade

To the Editor:

Re “When Can We Declare the Pandemic Over?,” by Aaron E. Carroll (Opinion guest essay, nytimes.com, April 27):

As a teenager, I find it scary to ponder how much more of my life could be defined and restricted by the Covid pandemic. The past year has been one of sacrifice and patience, but I can’t help but wonder: When will my life go back to normal?

The overused quote that “this is the new normal” haunts me and installs a new fear that the rest of my life will be filled with masks, Zoom calls and social distancing. The pandemic has certainly created permanent change in terms of health protocols and habits, but I hope that the changes in my education and social life are only temporary.

Growing up, I dreamed that my high school experience would be one of meeting new people and trying new things, but instead, more than half of it has been spent in awkward breakout rooms on Zoom and building shallow relationships through social media. I cannot accept that this is the new normal, but I also cannot envision my future because of how uncertain everything is.

Maggie Clarke
Pennington, N.J.
The Pennington School, 10th grade

To the Editor:

Re “California Man Dies After Officers Pin Him to Ground for 5 Minutes” (news article, nytimes.com, April 27):

“Drunk guy in the park doesn’t equal a capital sentence,” Julia Sherwin, a lawyer for the Gonzalez family, stated after Mario Arenales Gonzalez was pinned down and killed by three police officers in California. Day after day we hear about more and more brutal killings due to police brutality. George Floyd, Adam Toledo, Breonna Taylor, now Mario Arenales Gonzalez, and the list could go on and on.

The scary thing is, I begin to think: Who’s next? I know the tragedy I read or hear about will not be the last one. This seems to be never-ending. Police brutality has been going on for so many years. What — if anything — can make it stop? That heavy weight seems to fall on the shoulders of our generation. We are the “generation of change” — at least that is what all the adults say.

It is up to us to stop the police from giving “capital sentences,” seemingly without a second thought, to those who do not deserve it. We carry this heavy weight now. What will we do with it? Only time will tell.

Addy Gorton
New York
Ethical Culture Fieldston School, 9th grade

To the Editor:

Re “Your Home Is Asking: ‘Why Are You Still Here?’” by Pamela Paul (Sunday Review, May 2):

For me, it feels as if my house isn’t suddenly protesting my parasitic relationship with it but rather that it’s always had these rough edges. Before the pandemic I’d been too busy going from school to home to computer to sleep to notice that creaking door or that tumbleweed of dog fur. Or maybe I’d always known about these things, but in the echoing cave of my cabin fever every odd squeak and groan amplifies into a complaint.

I didn’t get out much before the pandemic, but now that I can’t escape my house and it’s creaking, I want nothing more than to get outside. I always measure my keenness to leave the house by looking at my dogs. If they’re pitiful captives then I’m dying to get outside, but if they’re enviably responsibility-free then I know I really want to be back in bed. Lately they’ve been seeming more dejected than carefree, but they do seem happier to have me around the house more, so that’s nice.

Alex Skiles
Portland, Ore.
Northwest Academy, 12th grade

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