Raise Your Voice, Not Your Fists This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   For high school students, tests in esoteric subjects, reading the bathroom graffiti to see if has to do with you, and ducking flying French fries at lunchtime are a part of everyday life. Some cruise along for four years with minimal effort, while others stay up late completing homework assignments for AP classes after Student Council meetings and baseball games. Whether your school of thought leans toward the "High school doesn't prepare me for the real world and is a waste of time" notion, or if you sincerely take advantage of your time here, it's incredible to think of exactly how different each student's experience can be.

While it's impossible to classify collectively students into a single group, there is something to which every student can relate - violence. Most of us have witnessed or a participated in a fight during lunch, an argument in the locker room, or an uncomfortable debate during class. Violence in school isn't just confined to being physical, it also deals with verbal conflict. Every student and teacher has the right to come to a school with a comfortable atmosphere where ideas can be freely expressed, and fortunately this is the mentality of the majority of the school.

You can blame the current trend on widespread violence on TV, the media's obsession with the profane, the breakdown of moral standards, or the unconventional manner in which more and more teenagers are being raised. Violence on the news is increasingly handled with a matter-of-fact disposition - that's how our world has become. Emotionless news anchors recite deathtolls from cue cards, relating little as to the sheer atrocities of human suffering.

In a perfect setting, fundamental conflict resolution skills would be a standard part of our lives, but many conflicts are being resolved violently. Raging hormonal tendencies can account for some of our actions, but there is a time when we must maturely assess situations and deal peacefully. Fighting can lead to suspension, removal from classes, tarnishing permanent records, and dissolving not only friendships but reputations.

A major reason for fights is the inability to accept the opinions and lifestyles of others. If you don't agree, you have more choices than having a harassing and abusive argument. If someone hip-checks you during a game of floor hockey, unnoticed and unpenalized by a gym teacher, the only solution does not lie in physical retaliation.

While acceptance of differing opinions is difficult for us, genuine empathy and understanding is indeed possible. Compromise is equally important. There are basic human principles and rights that would ideally influence our interpersonal actions which are often forgotten in the heat of a dispute. Nonviolent protests or objections and rationally handled confrontations are much more effective than turbulent actions. The only thing shown in violent situations is a gross example of how human respect is mistreated.

We are all adolescents facing an awkward time in our lives, but we are all also people; no one person is immune from having to deal with someone different. It's impossible to be completely isolated from feuds, but it is possible to be smart and mature enough, even at our age, not to raise our fists or voices. ?


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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