Teens these days.


(Photo: Carol Kaliff, Hearst Connecticut Media)

Today kids across America walked out of school to protest gun violence and the inability for our government to pass common sense gun control.

That’s incredible. I can only imagine being a government & politics teacher, or any other branch of history/American studies, and witnessing your students actively participating in and organizing peaceful protests. Or deciding not to participate because they didn’t agree with the protests. Either way, it’s a teach by doing moment. It’s teaching kids to be actionable instead of simply memorizing facts or spitting out theory.

Facebook is flooded with posts of alum, teachers and parents talking about the school walkouts or walk ins, where assemblies are being held in memory of the students killed due to gun violence. CNN is live-streaming the walkouts and the words of our CT Senator Chris Murphy. Across the nation kids are holding up signs stating their beliefs and desire for the adults in charge to be actionable. They are no longer complicit and trusting that adults will get the work done. The Parkland students showed them that their voice matters even when they are unable to vote. That you don’t have to wait until you’re 18 to voice political opinions.

I was young for my grade and didn’t turn 18 until I was in college. I remember being furious that I couldn’t vote in the primaries that year, even though I would be 18 by the general election. I was always highly opinionated when it came to politics, thanks to my mother who was always a well-informed citizen and my brother, who walked into the Democratic Headquarters at 16 to start volunteering. I would tag along with him, making calls to remind democrats and independents to vote, checking in on our elderly residents to see if any needed rides to polls, attending Chris Murphy’s debates when running for Congress, joining the Young Dems chapter my brother helped start and my favorite part of the process: going from poll to poll on election night to watch them count then ending back at Headquarters or a restaurant to hear the results roll in. I couldn’t vote, but I was more engaged in the political process than most adults.

Which was why I was furious when adults would undermine my intelligence in my teenage years. I would often hear that my opinions, and the opinions of my peers, were just echos of my family’s beliefs. I understand the thought, and recognize that may be true in some cases, but I could never understand why my civics teacher would take so much time explaining our nation’s workings to us, only to tell me that my opinions were just something I inherited from my parents when I got in a fight with a classmate over Bush’s reelection. Of course my family influenced my beliefs, but I was also smart enough to research and act on my own. I was old enough to hold opinions.

I remember a car ride where my mom and brother were talking a politics. I listened without much input, thinking instead of my recent civics lesson on political parties.

“What if I’m a Republican instead of a Democrat?” I asked my family.

I was constantly the lawyer of the family. I always wanted to think about situations from a different angle. A contrarian, always thinking of the other side before agreeing with my family.

“Your beliefs line up with the Democratic Party,” my mom replied.

“But what if they don’t? What if I’m a Republican instead?” I asked.

“Then you can be a Republican.”

I went home and did all the research I could on both parties. I spent hours trying to understand the difference and political platforms. I weighed policies against my moral beliefs and found that I did side with the Dems.

All of this was done my freshman year of high school. Clearly I was already intelligent and thoughtful enough to question my beliefs and recheck them against my political affiliation. My thoughts and opinions haven’t changed much. They evolved slightly with the times and my maturity. Whereas I used to think we should eliminate marriage entirely, calling everything a civil union, so we can eliminate the religious context of marriage, I’ve realized that battle gets misconstrued and calling everything a marriage is a better angle. I used to be much more fiscally liberal that I am today. I used to be pro-choice under medical necessity but am now entirely pro-choice. Tiny tweaks, but my adult mind is still in line with my teen mind.

So I still get angry that I was always underestimated. That adults did not believe that I researched my policies enough. To be fair, this still happens. I was constantly accused for siding with Hillary instead of Bernie because she was a woman, when in reality I thought she was the most qualified candidate we ever had and her fiscally moderate policies enabled me to reap benefits while still covering costs of social security and welfare.

People may say that I was a different type of teen. That not everyone was as mature. Well then, why not teach them to find their own opinions instead of dismissing them?

I think adults fall into an awful habit of thinking kids don’t know enough. We talk down to them and assume they can’t possibly understand. But clearly they do.

Today’s teens are living in a world where any question they have can be answered in a matter of seconds on their phones. Teenagers are actually MUCH better at recognizing “fake news” than we are. Aside from their obvious increased technical literacy, they’re also taught how to seek out information. As students, they have access to online encyclopedias and academic research. They’re constantly being told not to trust sites like Facebook and Wikipedia, and instead fact check every piece of information they want to use. They’re writing research reports and getting graded on whether or not their facts are confirmed. They’re much better at finding the truth than we are.

Without the ability to vote, I believe they’re getting antsy. I remember talking to my cousins, just shy of 18, about how much it sucked to be unable to vote in such an important presidential election. And now here we are, with massive school shootings happening at levels that I can’t even comprehend, and they’re done with us adults. They can’t vote, but they can speak for themselves and remind politicians that they’re voting very, very soon.

We need to stop underestimating kids and instead listen to them. That’s how I treat the kids I babysit. I never want to influence their own moral and political beliefs, so I just listen to them and encourage them to think about where they stand. The other day a kid I babysat was doing a project on trans kids and I found that she knew way more than even I did. I offered no opinions and instead just let her inform me on the topic. When I was watching some younger kids, someone came to the door who was running for local office. What followed was an hour long conversation with the kids about what their platforms would be and how they can run for office within their school. While I would steer at times, like suggesting they invest in scientific research when they said they wanted to stop all hurricanes, I let them carry the conversation.

We invest so much time and money into our kids and their education. But often when they want to show us the results of that investment, we don’t listen. While what happened at Stoneman Douglas was horrific, it is inspiring to see the students use their voices and speak up for themselves when a politician is dismissive of their question. Unless you’re a teacher or school employee, the topic of school shootings will ALWAYS impact the kids in your life more than it will ever impact you. Empower them to use their voices, especially if they’re teenagers. I’m so proud of these teens who are speaking up for the students in Sandy Hook who are still too young to speak for themselves. There are no longer only parents representing their students, but students themselves being actionable.

Keep going teens. Stand up for what you believe in and know that your mind is worthy of respect and your opinions are worth being heard.

If I get murdered…


Last night a friend of mine told me that he’d give me a ride home but he’d have to murder me when I got there. It was freezing last night so I figured there were some sacrifices I’d have to make. I took the ride. As I was cruising into my inevitable death, I realized that there were some things that would definitely need explaining if I got murdered, so I wrote my own obituary:

Hi all. My name is Anna Rose Taylor but you may know me as Annie, Abbott Tech Annie, icequeen21@yahoo.com or lxlhunnipiezlxl (on Xanga). First of all, sorry mom that you had to clean my room. You’re probably wondering why there are so many take out containers. Good question. My life is pretty busy and most days I have to decide between either eating or blow-drying my hair. I’m great at multitasking and lived in constant fear of being late (self-diagnosed time anxiety). I lived a simple life… when I was little, I had this colonial woman outfit that I was really attached to. I also loved my baby doll with a Bud Light can taped to it, skirt made out of Justin Bieber pictures, and shirt that says, “Hide yo’ kids, hide yo’ wives”… you’ll find all of this when you go through my closet, so I just want you to be prepared. I was a member of two hit bands, one being “The Lion King Band” where I was backup singer at the age of 5. After a successful family picnic and 5th grade lunchtime run, we broke apart and formed “Annie and the Angels” where I wrote my hit song, “Boogie Time”. While I lived a life of few regrets, my biggest was that I never redeemed the 7 guest passes to my gym that I’ve been hoarding on my account… and that this guy named Eric from Cyprus that I met at Friar Tuck’s never got to take me to Nacional 27 then Miami for a week like he promised before I fell asleep at the bar. I’m also pretty upset that I’ll never know who won Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition (Team Gianna). No one be sad – keep in mind that I chose to die in return for a ride home. I lived a good life… my favorite thing in the world to do was take naps, so I’m probably pretty happy right now. I loved Dance Moms, good beer, hip hop dancing and found men over the age of 70 captivating. My coworkers lived in constant fear of my eating and sleeping habits… as I considered lunchables worthy of an adult lunch and slept for 4 hours at night, worked for 8 then took a 2 hour nap before improv. My life was a marathon, not a race, and my strange sleeping habits proved that. At 13, I taught myself how to sing Ashanti’s “Foolish” in sign language just because I could. My dream in life was to be a Mexican abuela who has the best tamale recipe this would has ever known. The best advice I can give DePaul students can be taken from my old Twitter, in which I write, “the best way to procrastinate from writing a Political Science paper is to read #lilwaynedeeptweets… going on an hour. Best. Thing. Ever.” I lived in constant fear of falling asleep early – the best thoughts and most meaningful chats always happened at 2am. I’m convinced the Pink and I are best friends and that Jennifer Lawrence would be really happy to meet her soul mate (me) one day. In the last days of my life, I figured out how to open a beer bottle with a table, stuck a straw up John Sant’s nose, stood on the corner of North & Wells for a good 8 hours, and cried while watching Glee. I’m sure that I’m now in the afterlife with my invisible dog, stalking Gilda Radner and haunting the shit out of my roommates. Kristen – expect many more centipedes in your room. Oh, and here’s a picture to remember me by…


Let it serve as a warning. Chapped lips happen.