On A Soapbox

Preaching to anyone who will listen.

On A Soapbox

It happens to the best of us: sitting in a classroom full of our peers, all twenty-some-odd students not saying a word in what the teacher hoped would be a lively class discussion.

Far less frequently, this happens: sitting in a classroom full of our peers, all twenty-some-odd students all clamoring to make their opinion heard in what the teacher hoped would be a tame class discussion.

Yet for many students, it is the middle ground that sticks with us: sitting in a classroom full of our peers, with most of the twenty-some-odd students dead silent, and one or two letting the rest know exactly how they feel about any given topic on any given day.

This is the situation that a third hour AP class fell into on most days of the week this year. The teacher spends much of the class time lecturing, and it is on these days that the third option is seen: for one reason or another, perhaps five of the nearly thirty students in the class make a consistent effort to speak.

On one hand, there is the silent majority. Seniors Reece Eldridge and Nino Galante spend nearly every third hour quietly taking information in; they rarely publicly bounce their ideas off of the teacher or question other students’ ideas. Galante is the first person to admit he prefers to remain quiet.

“A lot of times I don’t feel like doing it, but sometimes I just don’t want to be wrong, so I let other people go for it,” Galante said.

Eldridge echoes Galante’s sentiment.

“There are some times where I feel like the teacher doesn’t need to ask [the question],” Eldridge said. “Sometimes the question has an obvious answer.”

Some of their lack of motivation to speak is a problem that students and teachers across all fields face: most subjects do not interest most students. When asked if they considered the class a possible career path, or even something they were interested in learning about, both responded decisively:

“Nope,” Eldridge said.

“Not even a little,” Galante said.

When looking across the aisle, it becomes immediately obvious that this is the most blatant difference between those who stay silent and those who speak up. Take senior Gabby Morgret. She is the opposite of Eldridge, Galante and most other members of the example class. She’s the most open, vocal member of the class and, like Galante, is the first person to admit it. Morgret is avidly interested in the social studies, and often complements her classwork by learning outside of the classroom through online news shows; however, her motivation to be vocal does not just stem from her love of social studies; it is in her nature.

“I used to be really quiet,” Morgret said. “I was quiet, I never talked much, and when I did talk, the teacher would be like, ‘Gabby, speak up.’ So I started speaking up more. As I grew up, I became more outgoing and eager to share my thoughts.”

Now, Morgret is far different. Part of her motivation to speak comes from her drive to help her classmates learn. Whether it’s an untrue statement or a tidbit she’s gleaned from her knowledge from outside of school, Morgret feels it is her duty to help those around her be more informed about the world around them. Nowhere is this more important than in a social studies class. Just that day, she built off the teacher’s lesson with her own knowledge about the factions within the Chinese government.

It is not just a student’s individual interest in a class that determines how involved they become. In fact, the real culprit comes from those around them. Eldridge, Galante and Morgret were all asked the same question: “Do other people’s opinions of you influence how involved you may be in a class?” Their answers are not surprising:

“Yeah,” Eldridge said.

“Definitely,” Galante said.

“It never runs through my mind,” Morgret said.

Eldridge and Galante are both worried that others will think differently of them when speaking out in class. Galante specifically mentioned that he feels “judged” when in the spotlight of a class. Meanwhile, Morgret denies others the ability to faze her.

“If other people don’t like that I speak and participate a lot and try to actively learn in class, then that’s them,” Morgret said. “I don’t care about what they think. I really don’t.”

This is the true divide between those who talk and those who do not—those who regularly get on a soapbox and those who stand next to one. An individual’s interest, not just in coursework but in any event in life, is important. Knowledge on a subject is essential, too, and both do play a role in who speaks up and who does not. However, assuming that the playing field is leveled and everyone is interested and informed on the topic at hand, there is only one thing that will truly stop one person from speaking up: the opinions of others.

So, to those already standing on a soapbox: stand there, and stand tall. All three seniors believe there is nothing wrong with using the resources and opportunities provided to better oneself and others, even if it may worry some inner doubts. However, a word of advice: there’s a good chance that others can help, are scared to talk, or can’t seem to find room on the soapbox. They could probably use a hand.

To those who have yet to find a soapbox, or just don’t want to: everyone can have their own. All opinions matter far more than others about oneself ever will. Additionally, there’s no harm in trying. Getting the most out of these four years will prove to be an essential building block as life continues; making that block as strong as possible can only be of benefit. Plus, the odds are good that someone is willing to help you step on the soapbox.

The ability to communicate is one of the greatest gifts humans have. Sometimes, all we need is to get on a soapbox to communicate.