The New York Times doesn’t publish many fourth-grade writing assignments, but Lindsay Wayland’s students at Johnson Elementary School made the cut.
The Times recently launched a kids’ section that will be included with Sunday print editions each month. For its recurring “Speak Your Mind” feature, editors at the Times are visiting classrooms and helping students write their own opinion articles. Excerpts of their finished pieces are published in the newspaper.
Wayland said the Times’ choice to feature a Charlottesville public school this month was motivated by the Aug. 12 white nationalist rally that put the city in international news headlines. However, editors Caitlin Roper and Aaron Retica didn’t ask the Johnson students about these events when they visited the school.
“The editors didn't ask guiding questions; the students were asked simply to think of something they were passionate about,” Wayland said. “It was an opportunity for the kids to show who they are, and to show that they are not defined by [Aug. 12].”
One student, Presley Thompson, opted to write about the statues of Confederate generals that have been a focal point of political protests in Charlottesville. “I think that the Confederate statues should come down, because they are basically a representation of slavery,” she wrote.
Virginia Santiago called for communities to crack down on littering and pick up more trash.
“I see a bunch of trash everywhere, and I wonder what happens to it,” Virginia said. “If people just picked up their own trash, it would be fine.”
Harrison Gaye’s opinion piece urged students to report incidents of bullying to adults.
“Nobody really has to care about your opinion,” Harrison said. “But if it is important to you, you should write about it.”
Some prominent journalists tweeted praise for the Johnson students' opinion writing:
The opinion page of this weekend’s NYT for Kids is legit better than 99% of adult op-ed pages. pic.twitter.com/sQPPUII6P4— Kevin Roose (@kevinroose) November 19, 2017
The New York Times kids section is back AND 👏 LAMIRA 👏 IS 👏 NOT 👏 HERE 👏 TO 👏 PLAY 👏 pic.twitter.com/2a2KRY8UGE— MJ Franklin (@heyitsfranklin2) November 19, 2017