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October 19, 2013

Teenhood Today: Seminars have taught me to speak my mind

The Daily Star

---- — Like most people, my favorite day of the week is Friday. For obvious reasons. It has been my favorite day since, about, the first day of kindergarten. But this year I especially love Fridays because of English class. Every Friday we have a “seminar” where two people introduce a topic to the class. We are then encouraged to dig deeper into the topic and allowed to debate. Yes! I love being able to speak my mind and give my opinion, which translates into: I love debating.

These seminars, I think, are fantastic. Not only do we get to express our feelings and opinions but we also get to hear those of others. We talked about the conflict in Syria and the U.S.’s involvement and I was swayed in my opinion. It’s extremely refreshing to look through other people’s eyes.

One of the other topics brought up was that of fracking. I didn’t really think that I had an opinion on that issue. I wasn’t for it. I wasn’t against it. But about halfway through the seminar I came to realize that I actually did have an opinion. When you’re given a setting in which to speak your mind, sometimes you realize what’s really on your mind.

Another topic was that of legalizing marijuana. Should we? Should we not? Just for medical purposes? For recreation as well? The two presenting that day showed us a video of a company who makes a bunch of different products using medical marijuana. Some of those products included soda, ointments and even ice cream! I had absolutely no clue! I’ve found that I usually walk away from these seminars with a broader view and more information to make a founded opinion with.

As I said before, I think these seminars are a genius idea! I know, however, that everybody reading this can’t just pop into my English class and join in the discussion. Sorry. But the key things we gain from these seminars can be found anywhere if you look. The broader view can be gained simply by looking around and stepping into someone else’s shoes. I know you’re all probably tired of hearing that, but it’s absolutely true. 

Sometimes — most of the time — another person’s way of looking at things is very beneficial to forming how we look at things. Instead of just seeing the world through your own foggy lenses of personal experiences and such, try to look at things through the eyes of someone whose past may have helped them see things about the topic that you never would have seen.

The second skill from the seminars is speaking out. If you have even the slightest opinion about something, talk about it. By keeping that opinion to yourself ,you’re forcing it to stay slight. If you talk about it and think it through, your opinion will often grow. You may even learn more about yourself and your own beliefs.

The third skill is that of having knowledge to back up your opinion. It’s easy to simply string words together and sound educated, but if you really have no facts to back it up, it’s not worth much. Research and listening to others can gain very useful knowledge that will help form grounded opinions.

I always look forward to these seminars. Friday is the best day of the week.

Miriam A. Thurber is a junior at Unatego Central School. ‘Teen Talk’ columns can be found at