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Let’s toughen up

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There’s truly nothing worse than peer editing in English class. Giving your Macbook to your table partner just to get it back three minutes later with a “nice job.” If you’re lucky and have a good neighbor, they might even check off all the empty “peer evaluation” boxes and get you an A.

From the time we took our first spelling tests, the competitiveness in school began. As time goes on, and the spelling tests turn into stories, and stories turn into five paragraph essays, accepting and giving criticism has intensified. And this isn’t just in the English realm — it’s happening in other school subjects; sports, theatre, band, orchestra and after school clubs. 

Being able to give and receive criticism is a lifelong skill that needs to be reinforced at the high school level. Too many teenagers are terrified of receiving criticism because they think it means they aren’t good enough. Like when the opposing tennis team winces at my serve — I know it’s bad but I don’t want to show the coach because he will probably have the same reaction.

If that is our mentality, what’s going to happen to us when our future boss tells us we handed in our expense reports late? Will we quit, cry or take on the challenge?

In a 2014 study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh, 40 teenagers were evaluated. One parent of each teenager made a thirty second video about things their child does that frustrates them. Various answers were “not taking out the trash,” “getting worked up over tiny things” and “not picking up after yourself.” The teens were then shown the videos from their guardians. Researchers found that during the criticism and a short time after, teenagers shut off their emotional control and empathy.

This is a natural response to criticism. Nobody wants to be told they are bad at something, but maybe we should change our attitude towards criticism. If your coach pulls you over and says “your hand-eye coordination is awful” and makes you do fifteen minutes of tennis ball catching everyday at practice — true story. Don’t cry or decide to quit — realize it might actually be what’s best for you.

Ever since the fourth grade I have told myself I am not musically gifted because I was the quiet girl in clarinet class who was too afraid to ask how to play an F sharp. I don’t remember asking one question in music class, and it was my first time playing an instrument. While the other kids were playing “Hot Cross Buns”, I was stuck faking my showcase concerts. 

I’ve been too scared to try to learn an instrument or join choir all these years because I was too afraid to ask. Sometimes criticism isn’t handed right to you. You have to want it, and go ask for it.

Too many people want automatic success in school and extracurriculars. “If you aren’t good at it, then you won’t ever be” is the common attitude teenagers take.

A study done by the Aspen Institute says the average kid today spends only three years playing sports and quits by age 11. Most kids lose interest in activities when they fall behind the better players, leading them to quit. But I think high schoolers, let alone eleven year olds should not be quitting sports because they aren’t fully developed — you never know what else you could achieve if you stick with it.

Criticism is marking up your neighbors essay and hoping  they do the same to you, it’s asking questions to your clarinet teacher so you don’t fall behind, it’s doing fifteen minutes worth of tennis ball drills because coach said “your hand-eye coordination sucks”. Teenagers need to start learning to suck it up because it only gets worse from here — now that’s some tough criticism.

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Author Spotlight

Lauren West

Junior Lauren West is starting her second year on Harbinger as co-Online-Assistant-Editor and a Copy Editor. You can always find her driving up and down Ward Parkway—she’s that annoying person blasting music with the windows down. Besides Harbinger, Lauren is involved in basketball, forensics, and c-team tennis (oh yeah). She is ready to finally be an upperclassman on staff. »

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