EDITORIAL: In defense of public speaking

High school students who dread public speaking have a new strategy: publicly calling for schools to abolish that requirement.

Last week, The Atlantic wrote about teenagers who are so stressed about making in-class presentations that they’re demanding alternatives.

“Nobody should be forced to do something that makes them uncomfortable,” Ula, a 14-year-old in eighth grade, told The Atlantic. “Even though speaking in front of class is supposed to build your confidence and it’s part of your schoolwork, I think if a student is really unsettled and anxious because of it you should probably make it something less stressful.”

Someone needs to lovingly tell students like Ula about the real world. Your adult life is going to be full of uncomfortable situations. A first job interview is stressful but yields a lifetime of rewards. Facing, dealing with and overcoming in those circumstances are among the most important skills you can develop.

“I’ve skipped school a lot of times if I had to present,” Jess, a 16-year-old in New Jersey, told The Atlantic. “Even if a teacher lets me present alone in front of them I still wouldn’t because that’s how nerve-racking it is.”

It’s understandable that children want to avoid difficult things, like public speaking. The job of adults isn’t to indulge these juvenile fantasies but to help them develop the knowledge and skills needed to overcome the challenges they’ll face in life. That includes public speaking.

A school that doesn’t do that isn’t doing its job.

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