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Kids have opinions, and The New York Times shares them

Twenty-one students from Tanya Jacobson's fourth grade class at Maverick Elementary School have strong opinions, and now the world knows what those opinions are. 

Earlier this month, the New York Times opinions editors met virtually with the Maverick students to gauge their thoughts and feelings on a variety of topics. Anything they had an opinion on was okay and they talked through the issues to know a little more about why the students felt the way they did. 

One such opinion came from fourth grader, Aleena, who came up with ideas like ‘students should be able to bring their pet to school.’  

“Sometimes when I’m reading, I mispronounce a word, and my teacher stops me and corrects me,” Aleena said. “A dog wouldn’t correct me. A dog would just listen.” 

Molly Bennet, managing editor of New York Times for Kids, worked with the students and says that the idea is to include students from all around the country. Texas students had never been asked to participate before, and she thought San Antonio students seemed like a good option. She contacted San Antonio ISD and explained the project, and the district was immediately on board. 

“We don’t really have an agenda when it comes to finding schools for the Opinion page,” Bennet said. “The point is really that all kids have important, valid insights and ideas about their lives and the world, and we want to hear them!” 

Other opinion ideas from Ms. Jacobson's class included: ‘Students should be able to take naps during school - that way kids have more energy to learn.’ Another one was that  homework should only be given to students once a week. 

“This was an amazing experience,” Jacobson said. “I think the New York Times was very receptive. They were kind, polite, gracious, patient. I want my students to be very thoughtful in their answers on their opinions. I want them to be critical thinkers.” 

Another student, Joaquin, really enjoyed talking about his opinion.  

“It felt great because I like telling a story,” he said. “Telling stories is almost like a fairytale, but different. I can share my opinion.” 

Bennet and the New York Times editors spent two days with the class. First, they were asked to jot down their opinions – on anything. Then they worked on reflecting why their opinion was a good one, explaining why they arrived at the opinion they shared.
“I do think the kids come away from the workshop with a better understanding of the difference between opinion and fact, and how to make the case for their own opinions in a persuasive way,” Bennet said. “But what I really hope they take away from it is the feeling that their opinions matter, and that should be taken seriously.” 

Bennet said she loved all of the opinions from the students, especially Aleena’s argument that kids should be able to bring their pets to school. 

“[It] was beautifully written and really insightful,” Bennet said. “I love it when kids come up with ideas for improving school – they're the experts in what it’s like to be a fourth grader, so we should listen to them! I also really like Daniel’s opinion about fixing the electrical grid. That’s a great example of drawing from your own experiences to think about big, important issues.” 


Check out some of Ms. Jacobson's class opinions on the New York Times for Kids on Instagram.


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