Today in Language Arts class my students and I were discussing topics for their persuasive essays, an essay with a purpose to convince the readers to believe a certain way or do a particular action. In the preliminary stages of the discussions, some of the students did not have very substantial topics. Ideas like "Why we should have more recess" and "Why there should be no homework" were prevalent among the group. However, when convinced that I, their teacher, would not be convinced by any argument they could possibly make about any of these topics, they began to get serious. Astonishingly very serious; I am forced to admit a feeling of surprise and admiration for many of them.
The new topics being volunteered by the class were, for the most park, quite thought provoking. I suppose what really impressed me was that some of these topics were things that my friends and I were writing about in high school, not 7th Grade. Topics like "Why we should recycle," "Why you should not eat at McDonald's," and "Why you should play team sports" were the new favorites. Of course there were a couple of less thoughtful topics; ideas such as "Why you should buy and use a flash drive" and "Why people who do not try in sports should not be allowed to play" among them. Two of my students, though, came up with an amazing topic that I feel surpasses all on the level of thoughtfulness and importance: why people should become foster parents.
I cannot deny that I froze for a second. I could not believe that a 7th Grade student had come up with such a thought-provoking topic. As I sit and think about it, though, I should not have been all that surprised. Many young people today are exposed to much more of the world and worldly situations than I was when I was their age (which, let's face it, was technically not that long ago; about 10 years). It made me really realize how much our society has changed in a decade. When I was 12 or 13, I would have been one of the students writing about sports and why people should play them. If I was forced to pick a different topic, I probably would have written about why I should have been able to pick my own topic. These kids, though, have in a way put younger me to shame.
Foster parenting is one of the most noble things any adult could ever do. My cousin has been a foster mom for years and my wife is adopted, so when these girls gave me their suggestion it really hit close to home. I am not saying that the other students' topics are not noble in their own right; to the contrary, I think recycling, playing team sports, and eating healthy are fantastic things for middle school aged students to be thinking about. However, foster parenting is something that I would have thought would not have crossed their minds for quite a few years. It would not be as surprising if these girls themselves had come from broken homes, but they both are from great and loving families, which makes their decision all the more impressive to me. In a world where everyone is looking for the instant gratification and pursuing their own selfish agendas, two 7th Grade girls are concerned about children finding a good home and loving parents. That is what's really important.