We Don't Have to Wait
To begin with, I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment that the youth of America have a much greater capacity to bring about change than is generally attributed to them. Speaking as a youth, it took me a very long time to move beyond the idea that there is nothing I can do to bring about change until I “grow up”. For me it was a very liberating experience to realize that, with enough dedication, I can accomplish very nearly anything I like. This was something I realized bit by bit, over a fairly extended series of time, but I’d say my personal empowerment was set in motion by a program at my school in which students would run various environmental monitoring projects, the purpose being to teach students about science and also about how to manage a project. What I like the most about this program is that in an often rigid and uncompromising education system this program allowed me the freedom to do things as I like, and to develop my initiative. I believe that if there were more such programs in public schools you would see much more in the way of activism and initiative from the Youth of America.
Another claim I agree with is that in America we have an unhealthy tendency to glorify and to some degree worship heroes. In fact, just last year I wrote a speech about just that. My main argument was although heroes can be an inspiration to us, by turning men and women into heroes we create a gap between them and us. Many will see such an unbridgeable gap between them and the heroes we look up to that they will not believe that they have it within themselves to be heroic in their own way. The celebration of heroes can also create a sense that the efforts of the average citizen are in some way unnecessary - another dangerously untrue idea.
Lastly, I connected with the assertion that standardized testing is not always the best tool to assess a student’s merits. As I see it, the main shortcoming of standardized testing is not that such tests fail to measure a student’s knowledge of the subject matter - although that argument can also be made - it is that that is not necessarily the most important thing. More important, I believe, than a students encyclopedic knowledge of history is a students ability to relate current events to historical anecdotes and apply their knowledge to the decisions he or she faces in life. While I believe that it may be possible to assess this skill, standardized tests have thus far, in my opinion, entirely failed to do so.