Tag Archives: education

Affirmative Action

Affirmative Action Was Never Enough

By Alexandra de Graeve, age 13, New York.

When affirmative action was struck down, the New York Times interviewed a bunch of high school students. Connor, from St. Peter High School in Minnesota, said, “I like the idea of having diverse campuses but not at the expense of hard work. I think that everyone is equal so everyone should be treated equally and given the same opportunities. I believe that colleges should look more at the hard work put in by the students than at race.”

I don’t completely disagree or agree with Connor. I agree that everyone should be treated the same way and given the same opportunities, and that colleges should reward hard work. But not everyone gets the same opportunities, which diminishes diversity on campuses. Black students often attend poorly-equipped elementary, middle or high schools. This causes Black students who need help to not get any, which makes it more difficult for them to get into elite colleges. The question is, what should we do to change this for the better? Affirmative action was a controversial solution, but it did help marginalized students have a better chance at getting into good colleges, and on June 29, 2023 the U.S. Supreme Court ended it.

Affirmative action tried to help historically marginalized groups have better chances at getting into good colleges. According to NPR (National Public Radio), when the Supreme Court ended affirmative action, it ended “…the ability of colleges and universities—public and private—to do what most say they needed to do: consider race as one of the many factors in deciding which of the qualified applicants should be admitted.” Unfortunately, lots of people thought that students with lower scores would get into schools over students with higher scores. But, the truth is, if two students had the same SAT scores and the same quality for their essay, affirmative action let colleges pick the student from a marginalized group.

A student named Hamid from Glenbard West High School in Illinois said, affirmative action “…is not picking a minority student over a white student simply on the basis of race. Affirmative action literally means “the practice or policy of favoring individuals belonging to groups regarded as disadvantaged or subject to discrimination, over similarly qualified non-minority individuals.” The idea wasn’t to disadvantage privileged kids, but help less privileged ones. This was important because it would start a chain reaction, allowing less wealthy students to get better jobs, which would also help their kids do better, and their kid’s kids do better because they would have more opportunities.

Ending Affirmative action was a controversial decision. NPR  said, “Indeed, the reality is that in those places where affirmative action has been eliminated, there has been a severe drop in minority, and particularly, African American, admissions.” In its job of increasing diversity at schools, it worked. Affirmative action let more minorities into colleges. But even with it, there was still a severe wealth gap in marginalized groups. Without it, the wealth gap will grow again. Speaking to the NY Times, Amalia, a student at RFHS in Colorado, said, “Increasing diversity in schools, jobs, and major positions of power starts in colleges. So we need to include race in college applications.” We need more diversity among powerful people. We can’t have a congress that only has white and/or rich people in it. While Amalia is right, we also need to consider education at every level. It helps to get into a good college if you go to a good high school; it helps to get into a good high school if you go to a good middle school; it helps to get into a good middle school if you go to a good elementary school; it helps to get into a good elementary school if you go to a good preschool. It’s important to have access to quality education at every stage. Even when you’re really young.

To help students from marginalized groups access higher education we need more than just affirmative action. Tobz, of Baker High School said, “Now, of course, ideally, we wouldn’t need affirmative action. It probably isn’t even that effective at curbing racial biases and inequalities due to how limited its application would be. But it’s not a negative for anyone, and it has a reasonable and logical justification for existing.” While affirmative action is helpful, it isn’t going to change everything. We need more than that. To do well in school, you need accessible teachers, healthcare, a supportive family, food, and a home. Snacks, living close to school, having someone at home to help you, and extra curricular activities are all also very helpful. The government should make sure everyone has what they need to have a good education.

Contrary to what Connor believes, diversity isn’t just going to happen. There are too many things working against people from marginalized groups. For a while, some members of historically marginalized groups had better chances of getting into colleges because of affirmative action. That’s why the Supreme Court’s decision to end it was highly controversial. The truth is, affirmative action was a step in the right direction, but it was not enough. Now that it’s gone, we need to share our resources much more equitably so that everyone has access to a good education.

—Alexandra de Graeve, age 13, grade 7, New York. “I live in New York City but both my parents come from Europe. I speak English and Dutch, and I am taking French and Latin at my school. I don’t know what I want to be when I’m older, but I want math to be a part of it. I was annoyed at my English teacher for talking about affirmative action in a careless way, and so I researched it to find out more.”

Mariana on the Night Shift

Mariana on the Night Shift

By Ann Malaspina, New Jersey


Mrs. Benton called out from the front of the classroom. “Are you with us, Mariana?”

Mariana lifted her head from her desk. She had fallen asleep in history class. How embarrassing!

“Sorry, Mrs. Benton,” she murmured, sitting up straight.

A boy giggled. Abby, who sat next to her, leaned over. “Don’t worry,” she whispered. “Everyone falls asleep at least once in this boring class.”

History class wasn’t boring to Mariana. She loved learning about the past. Mrs. Benton made history interesting by talking about ordinary people, not just presidents and other famous men. This week, they were learning about Dolores Huerta, the labor leader who helped farmworkers earn better pay and improve their living and working conditions.

The lunch bell rang, and Mariana walked slowly out of the classroom.

“Are you okay?” asked Abby, coming up from behind.

Abby lived down the street from Mariana’s uncle and aunt, Tia Luna and Tio Miguel. Mariana had been staying in their house since the summer.

Mariana yawned. “I guess so.”

“My dad said he saw you at the factory the other night,” Abby said. “Were you visiting your uncle?”

Mariana’s uncle worked at the cereal factory, just like Abby’s parents. Her mother worked in the office and her father drove a truck for them. Almost every family in town had someone who worked at the factory.

“Yes,” Mariana lied.

But she could hear her mother’s voice. “Never lie, mi hija. A lie always comes back to bite you, like a mosquito.” Suddenly, she missed Mami, who lived in Mexico City, many miles from Mariana.

The two girls sat at a picnic bench. Abby began eating her lunch, but Mariana wasn’t hungry. She took a deep breath.

“I wasn’t there to see my uncle,” she said. “I work the night shift.”

“The night shift?” Abby put down her sandwich. “You’re not even fourteen! My mom said I can’t work until I’m sixteen.”

“My uncle got me the job. I help pack the cereal on the line,” said Mariana. “It’s easy.”

“Easy” was another lie.

The first hours of her shift weren’t so bad. Mariana pushed bags of oat squares into cereal boxes as they traveled past her on the conveyor belt. An older worker helped Mariana if she fell behind. But, by 11 PM, her feet hurt. Her back ached. And her head pounded from the noisy machinery. She still had three hours to go.

Before Abby could ask more questions, Mrs. Benton walked up them.

“Can you come see me after school, Mariana? There’s a book I want you to read.”


When Mariana stepped into Mrs. Benton’s classroom, her teacher asked her to sit down.

“I hear that some of our students are working at the factory!”

It was true. Mariana had seen a half-dozen other children working the night shift. Mariana felt like she might cry. Her uncle had told her not to talk about her job to anyone, and she’d already told Abby.

Mrs. Benton quickly said, “You don’t have to answer. I just want you to know the facts. It’s not safe—or legal —for children your age to be working in a factory. There are labor laws that protect children. The laws were written to keep children safe from harm.”

Mariana looked down. Her right thumb was bruised from two nights ago. It had gotten caught under conveyor belt. She overheard someone say Mariana was too small for the job.

Mrs. Benton pulled a book from the shelf. On the cover, a girl stood at a conveyor belt like the one at the factory.

Mariana put the book in her backpack. Ever since she started working, Mariana could barely finish her homework, much less read extra books. Luckily, today was Friday, her day off.

That night, Mariana read stories from history about a farm girl who operated a loom in a cotton mill, a boy who worked in a coal mine, and a boy who sold newspapers in New York City. A shiver went up her back when she read about the girl catching her finger in the cotton loom. “Even though laws protecting children from unsafe work were passed in the 20th century, child labor continues to the present day,” she read.

Tio Miguel woke her up early on Saturday. “I got you a day shift today,” he said. “Hurry and eat your breakfast.”

Mariana sat down at the kitchen table. She stirred her scrambled eggs, thinking hard. Her teacher’s words —“It’s not safe or legal”—kept swirling in her head.

But the problem wasn’t so simple. Tia Luna had hurt her back while lifting heavy boxes at the factory. She hadn’t worked for a whole year. The family needed Mariana’s help to pay the bills. Still, there must be another solution.

Mariana put down her spoon. “I’m not allowed to work at the factory. I’m not old enough. It’s the law.”

“What?!” Tio Miguel’s coffee cup spilled. “I need you to work. Otherwise, you can’t stay here.” 

Mariana touched the angel on her necklace. Mami had given it to Mariana when she left home. The angel made her feel strong.  Maybe Mariana would be a writer when she grew up. A writer like the one who wrote about the mill worker, the coal miner, and the newspaper boy. To be a good writer, Mariana couldn’t fall asleep in history class.  

Tia Luna rushed into the kitchen. “What’s all the arguing about?” 

Mariana told her the same thing she had told her uncle. She added, “I fell asleep in class yesterday!”

Her aunt’s eyebrows went up. 

“She’s right, Miguel,” she said, briskly wiping up the spilled coffee. “Mariana is a smart girl. She needs to be awake at school. Anyway, my back feels a lot better. I’m ready to go back to work.”

Tio Miguel sighed deeply. “Life is not easy. All I want is to pay our bills.”

Tia Luna hugged Mariana. “We love having you here. We made a big mistake. From now on, your job is to go to school.”

There was a knock on the door.

Abby held her soccer ball under her arm. “Can you practice soccer in the park?” 

Mariana looked at her aunt and uncle. They smiled and nodded. 

Grabbing her cleats, Mariana ran out the door. “Yes, let’s go!”  

The End

—Ann Malaspina, author and educator, New Jersey. Ann has published many picture books and nonfiction books on social issues, including on the important issue of child labor. Please visit http://www.annmalaspina.com to learn more about her literary work.


Stone Soup

Stone Soup

By Laurel Aronian, 16, New York

Elizabeth gave us our assignment:
“Today in class you will be making stone soup.” She held up the book for all to see.
“You want us to cook?” a bold boy asked.
“Of course,” said Elizabeth, and handed us the aprons.

We went into the kitchen in the parallel classroom,
And listened to the clink of knives and the bustle of our classmates.
Each of the grades would provide a vegetable,
And as fourth graders, we were assigned the onions.

My friend and I wondered what genius had given us this task.
The teachers only provided us with long, silver knives, intentionally dulled down.
We set to work at our stations, passing the onions and shielding our eyes.

Over time, we came up with useful solutions to protect us from the sting and fiery smell.
Some kids passed around their glasses.
Others grabbed goggles from the science cabinet.
Some even asked the teachers for a slice of bread to hold in their mouths.
We were some wimpy fourth graders.

Yet things improved when we found solutions that worked.
The goggles fared well against the fumes,
And we learned to take turns passing around the glasses.
Soon enough, we had seven big bowls filled with the slices.

We walked outside as a pack and sat on shedding tarps.
We huddled closer around the fire, shielded from air like needles,
We felt our size as we sat with the lower grades, leaders of the school.
And we watched Elizabeth take the lead and open the book once more.

The rumble turned to patter as she began to read,
As the students slowly deposited their chopped vegetables
The smell of the soup filled the air,
The bubbling pot and voices a chorus on the wind.

When it was our turn, we stood up with our bowls of onions.
Full of pride, dropping them in the sizzling soup.
We realized what Elizabeth was trying to teach us,
Standing there with our dulled knives and aprons.

If we were given the solutions to our problems,
We would never learn.
We would never create.
For the next time we made soup without assistance.

The sound of the realization was the clink of spoons,
The passing of mugs, the shatter as one fell,
The clatter of a dustpan as we swiped up the shards,
The happy chatter as well enjoyed good food.

The smell of the vegetables mingling together,
The burning wood within the fire,
The earthiness of the dirt on which we sat,
The wool of our mittens in the chilly air.

Tasting the soup was the ultimate prize,
If we hadn’t been the chefs, we wouldn’t have realized,
The distinct change the onions made to the overall aroma,
And never would’ve known to add them.

Elizabeth taught us more than numbers that day,
She taught us the impact every action makes,
Not only would we be able to make stone soup once again,
But we’d learned creativity in solving the problems at hand.

By Laurel Aronian, 16, Connecticut.

“I love to write in all genres (poetry, prose, journalism). I also enjoy taking photos and creating art. I have a passion for music and perform as a singer-songwriter and accompany on guitar. When I’m not writing or making music, I play competitive chess.

My poetry submissions highlight multicultural awareness as I am of multicultural heritage and recently celebrated Ramadan, Passover, and Easter. My pieces also reflect the awe of nature, earth stewardship, and our planet’s majesty and magic.”

The Paralyzing Fear of Gun Violence

The Paralyzing Fear of Gun Violence*

A National Pandemic of The 21st Century

By Beatriz Lindemann, age 16, Florida

When I first heard the shrieks, I was in line to buy a set of pajamas at Victoria’s Secret with my nanny and godmother, Lizette. Then, suddenly, a stampede of people ran through the store.

“Get down!” someone screamed.

“We heard gunshots!” a woman yelled.

I dropped to the floor and grabbed Lizette’s hand. “¿Qué está pasando?” (“What is happening?”) I asked her. My heart was beating out of my chest.

She did not answer. We were both panicked. I wondered if the shooter was in the store.

An employee ran to a door in the back of the store. We followed her into a gray room filled with lockers and chairs. I stared at the door, waiting for someone to walk in. Was the shooter still in the mall? There was nowhere to go. Surely, if someone tried, they could get through the door. The employees listened to updates on their radios. My whole body began to shake as I processed what was going on.

Ten minutes later, the employees told us that the gates had shut in front of the store and that the police were beginning to search the mall. Relief.

Those were the scariest ten minutes of my life. I thought that I was going to die; I mentally prepared myself to have a gun pointed at me. Those ten minutes changed me.

We stayed in that back room for two hours as the police searched the mall. I was cold and shaking. I kept updating my phone until an hour and a half after the initial incident when the news reported that the shooter had gotten into an argument with someone he knew and shot three people in that mall—Aventura Mall in Miami. The report stated that the shooter had left immediately but did not report that thousands of people hid for hours.

This wasn’t my first experience with gun violence. When I was in the fifth grade, there was a mass shooting not too far from where I live in Miami at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Fourteen students and three teachers died at that school, a place where we should all be safe.

I had trouble imagining that fear and understanding that threat before that incident. In elementary school, lockdowns were a time to whisper and giggle with friends. After the Parkland shooting, though, no one spoke during lockdown drills. To this day, the air during these drills is tense and petrifying. No one is laughing. The threat is real. Too real.

After the shooting in the mall, I had panic attacks for weeks. I felt unsafe in public and did not want to be in large, commercial spaces. I was not in control, and that was difficult to accept. My experience did not compare to many others’ experiences with gun violence, yet I was rattled. I was 14, and I felt helpless.

Then, the Robb Elementary shooting in Uvalde, Texas, happened, and my resentment reached an all-time high. My stomach flipped when I read that Uvalde was the deadliest school shooting in a decade; 19 children and two teachers were killed. My heart ached as I thought of the parents who dropped their children off at school one morning and never got to see them again. They will never hug their babies again.

The more I read, the angrier I became. I shut my computer and screamed into my hands. When was it going to be enough? When was there going to be enough pain to cause change? How can politicians look in the mirror?

For the next couple of weeks, as more news came out about the shooting, my panic attacks continued. Parents and children who lost their friends that day were on the news. I felt their pain. Eleven-year-old Miah Cerillo covered herself in her dead friend’s blood to avoid being shot. She called 911 from her dead teacher’s phone. In what world is this acceptable?

I read articles that included the statements of politicians after the shooting. A Texan politician caught my attention. He did not offer solutions for protecting children but rather took the press opportunity to politicize the situation. He shared his opinion, which was that it was essential for Americans to have access to firearms. These politicians claim to be “pro-life,” advocating for the unborn but not the children already on Earth.

I have read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in school. I understand why upholding the Constitution is necessary for our nation’s success and a well-functioning government. Still, I do not understand how a document written centuries ago can prohibit gun control for public safety. Banning all guns may not be the solution, but changing our policies has to be. We need to focus on who has access to firearms. Purchasing a gun in America is too easy. Pulling a trigger is too easy. Proper training is needed, as are background checks and mental health evaluations.

When will we depoliticize this human rights issue? Our country is divided, but to fix this, we must unite. This isn’t Democrats versus Republicans. It must be Americans against gun violence.

—Beatriz Lindemann, 16, Florida. Her stories have been published across various literary platforms, from Girls Write the World to the Women’s Media Center. She is a varsity rower and hopes to study journalism, political science, or law at university. Her unorthodox upbringing, raised by two gay dads, impacted her perception of the world and the power of writing.

*This essay by Beatriz was originally published by the Women’s Media Center on the WMC FBomb.

Army Recruiting in Schools Needs to Stop

Army Recruiting in Schools Needs to Stop

By Avah Keyhani, grade 8, California.

In 2016, more than 60 percent of military enlistments came from neighborhoods with a median household income between $38,345 and $80,912.[1] That means that there are more lower income families in the military, most likely because those families saw the military as a chance to help their economic standing. The truth is, if there was another way to lift families out of poverty, then the military’s recruitment rates would go down, and no one would be joining the military to get money for college or grad school. As it is, that’s exactly what they’re doing. They are using young people in lower income families and giving them a choice: join us and become a hero or live in poverty. Of course, the military kind of beats around the bush when it comes to murdering others and very possibly dying yourself. When you’re younger, you’re more impulsive and more easily persuaded, so the military preys on younger minds. That’s why military recruiters need to get out of schools and stop going after lower income families.

If a young person isn’t joining the military of their own free will, they shouldn’t be joining at all. The military doesn’t want college to be free because their recruitment relies on poorer people enlisting in exchange for funds for college. Many choose to be part of the military because of the promise of college ahead. Take that away, and their recruitment rates will drop (which is good). Common Dreams quotes a GOP lawmaker who Tweeted, “By forgiving such a wide swath of loans for borrowers, you are removing any leverage the Department of Defense maintained as one of the fastest and easiest ways of paying for higher education.” Does the lawmaker not realize he’s literally admitting that college degrees and crushing debt are being used as leverage? And that he’s saying that the military relies on young, poor people and threatens them with poverty? Commenting on this republican lawmaker, Our Wisconsin Revolution argued on Twitter, “The GOP is admitting that the military relies on poor young people to keep the war machine going, and that’s why they oppose canceling student debt…The price of a college degree should not be bloodshed or a lifetime of crippling debt.”

If someone wants to join the military because they enjoy dropping bombs on people, fine. But most people join to pay for a degree, or because of some advertisement. That’s wrong. People shouldn’t have to kill others to get a college degree. Nor should they have to live with debt. War has a terrible effect on the human mind and young people shouldn’t have to deal with that just to go to college or grad school.

The military targets lower income families. According to NNOMY “…Schools with a high proportion of low-income students serve as a magnet for the military. Take the example of two similarly sized high schools in two Hartford suburbs: Avon and Bloomfield. Army recruiters visited Avon High, where only 5 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, four times during the 2011-12 school year. Yet at Bloomfield High, where nearly half the students qualify for such assistance, recruiters made more than 10 times as many visits.” That means that they spent more than forty days at Bloomfield high (that’s more than once a week!) and four days at Avon. They spent so much more time at the school where half of the kids needed help paying for their lunch, and barely any time at the school where five percent needed help. That’s blatantly obvious and disgusting. The military is exploiting people that come from lower income families because people who come from lower income families will have a harder time paying for college.

Kids shouldn’t be subjected to the kind of violence the military engages in, especially those who are under twenty-five and whose prefrontal cortexes are not fully developed. According to Heathline, “While many people have endured the hell of war and escaped unscathed, young people who experienced personal trauma before service are the most likely to develop lasting mental health issues after serving in combat.” Well, what kids are more likely to have experienced trauma? Poor kids, which is exactly the group the military is going after. Also, can you ‘endure the hell of war and escape unscathed?’ Can you watch people die, maybe some of your friends and others by your own hand, and go back to life like nothing happened? I don’t believe so, especially if your brain hasn’t fully developed.

According to inequality.org, “Research reveals numerous physical and mental health risks from joining the military at a young age—including higher rates of substance abuse, depression, PTSD, and suicide.” This is common knowledge, knowledge that the military surely has, so why are they continuing to recruit kids even though they know what may happen to them further down the line? It seems like the military purposely feeds on younger soldiers who don’t quite have the mental capacity yet to think ‘wait, why am I doing this?’ If this country really cared about the next generation, they would be helping the kids make a life for themselves rather than recruiting them into the military and exposing them to violence.

The military isn’t something you should be joining to get a degree. The right to education should be assured, not something that lower-income families will either have to go into debt for or be willing to kill people for. And with younger people, who agree to join the military on the promise of paid-for college, it severely attacks their mental and physical health. If the government cares more about being the biggest bully in the playground than caring about their own young people’s mental health, they have no business being the government.

Avah Keyhani, grade 8, California. She writes: “…I am a bilingual Iranian American who speaks Farsi and English. The most important things in my life are my family, friends, my books, and standing up for myself and my ideas. I would very much like to become a scientist and I have an interest in epidemiology. I was inspired to write my essay after reading about the amount of people who join the military at a young age and are scarred for life.”