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The Mindset We Live By

It is not often that I will use this blog to post personal information, but this is very important to me, not only to enter for a scholarship with the Toptal Scholarships, but instead, to get the word out there.

To be honest, this is not specifically for that, but rather, this scholarship opportunity has made me realize that there is a valuable platform to spread this word: the ever-growing internet.

Now to address the problem we constantly face.

Our world has changed drastically, and it will continue to until our time on this earth as humans ends, and as it advances, we need to be able to not only acclimate, but actively participate in it.

The first thing people think about when I mention advancement is often technology, as social media and the devices we hold put things we never thought possible within our reach. But this is not the only form of our changing surroundings. Instead, we as a society are continuously evolving.

But not everyone is evolving with it.

For many reasons, some people are stuck in the past in regards to their views on the world. It is imperative that we open the eyes of those people not only the future, but the present.

They say that an old dog can’t learn new tricks, and in many ways this can be true.

So the key to this is…

Start young.

In school, we learn about so many subjects: math, English, foreign languages, history, etc.

We learn about the past and the basic structure of now, but we don’t learn the subjects that will help us navigate today.

So I am proposing a solution, a class that will address the subjects we have failed to time and time again: Life in the 21st Century.

To me, there are several that stand out, but two in particular that I am most connected to.

The first is LGBTQIA, and the fact that it is often looked down upon or deemed too taboo to discuss.

The biggest indicator in this is the word used to describe what we have taken steps to: Tolerance. You see, there is a vast gap between “tolerance” and “acceptance”.

Tolerance means that we acknowledge and deal with it. We either ignore the issue, or see it as something we do not refute.

Acceptance means that we greet it with open arms and offer the support people need. Now, I’m not saying that I expect everyone to sit in a circle and spill out their feelings, but to shift that tolerance to acceptance, we need to combat ignorance. And we cannot do that unless a dialogue is opened.

As a whole, the education system is too fearful to truly breach this topic, and as a result there are many people who are not exposed to the reality of it. This is a huge factor in prejudice. And as it is becoming a growing part of society, we must be able to have open minds.

Proposing this in a safe environment with an educational backing and an unbiased instructor has the potential to change lives.

The second subject is even more prevalent than the first, and it affects more people than most expect: mental health.

Though we have begun to be more open to this, it is still not taken as seriously as it should be. So many people are affected by this, whether they choose to admit it or not. Often times, people go to the latter, because they fear judgment.

Yet this impacts a vast majority of teens.

Be it anxiety brought on by environmental factors, clinical depression, or anything in between, we should be able to openly discuss this in a way that will encourage people to speak out rather than hold their tongues.

For the last issue, the biggest indicator I have seen was the term used.

For this issue, there is something much more dire: suicide jokes.

The gravity of words cannot be expressed enough, and the ramification of the things we say can be unimaginable. Almost every day, I hear someone laugh about this more than serious topic, from high school students to actual adults.

Personally, I don’t often feel that it is out of malice. A large reason for this is, yet again, ignorance.

I believe that sticks and stones may break bones, but words can scar a soul.

Said to the wrong person on the wrong day, a life could be lost, something many don’t realize until it is too late.

These are only two of the many things that this class has the potential to bring to light. Social media, domestic abuse, sexual assault, and other hidden puzzle pieces that fit in the image of society can be taught.

I am under no illusion that this will be easy, nor do I think it will be taken well by all.

But it needs to happen.

Now come the necessary tools to make this dream a reality.

One of the most important and necessary components is the guidance of adults educated on the topics addressed.

It would be easy to make a math teacher sacrifice a period to halfheartedly spit out information, but that would almost defeat the purpose of the class itself. A valuable asset is someone who not only has the information about this, but instead, is passionate about it.

Having a person who is personally connected to the topics would provide a much better and more involved manner of education. Though they may not realize it, teachers’ attitudes majorly influence the experience of the students. It is easy to identify a willing teacher versus a passionate teacher.

Obviously, the latter will evoke a much better response.

The second thing that would be extremely helpful is school funding. Rather than sitting in a classroom and reading a book, an immersive experience would pull students toward being more receptive. Going out in the world and seeing how it applies to real life will help students realize that this is not something contained in a classroom bubble.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, but visiting places and seeing things that are outside the box some students live in will expand their knowledge more than a slideshow.

The third thing that would be appreciated is guest speakers. Having people who have been directly affected by what is learned in the class speak to that group would be priceless to the impact the class has.

Many classes are able to incorporate this in their lessons, and as a whole, it takes the education a step further. They are putting faces to what is being taught, rather than leaving it as a hypothetical situation, or one that is on paper.

Of course, the most important thing needed is approval. If not passed by the necessary people, there is an insurmountable obstacle. Having someone who is able to influence the “higher ups” would further the chances of success.

I would be willing to pilot it at my own school as an elective offered. But again, without the right support, it is simply impossible.

A mentor specifically for me would be invaluable. I will be the first to admit that I don’t know all of the ins and outs of the education system. Doing this on my own would prove to be much more difficult than having someone experienced in the field to help.

Also, someone who will be able to provide me with the training and opportunity to speak to the public will provide much more public access and gain much more support. I am well versed in writing, and I have experience speaking to audiences, but I would need assistance on addressing the masses on a larger scale.

Even though I am educated on some of this, I cannot say that I am a jack of all trades. I have much to learn, and with the guidance of a person who will help me refine my knowledge in order to give proper education and information, I think much more will be possible.

What will we be, and where will we go if so many people are rooted in the past? How will our world become a better place if ignorance prevails? These are important questions we must ask not only the people around us, but ourselves.

So many people want change, but few are willing to take the step to make it happen. Silence can be deafening, and with it ringing loud, we can never be heard.

I am finally coming forward, and shouting so people can hear me.

And let me ask you…

Are you willing to change the mindset we live by?

 

-Payton Polanco

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