Self-Expression and Vulnerability in Schools


Charlotte Bol, contributor

School is a place to learn and push yourself to be able to grow and succeed in life. In school you are given assignments to further you in passing that class, but how much do you get to express yourself? With dress codes, class guidelines, and general opinions, school makes it hard to be yourself sometimes. But why? How come that in a place where you are supposed to feel safe and welcome, it is still hard to have your own opinions? Well, it shouldn’t be. Restrictions around students only push us further back, instead of ahead.  

If we are not taught to use self-expression within our own assignments, it could affect us in the future when going into college. Professors have said that students have a challenging time expressing their internal interests and ideas, “We expect college freshmen to feel at least as comfortable with self-expression… but every year I find that getting them to admit to feeling devoted or frustrated, to being peculiar in any way (much less in a large way), verges on impossible.”  And as we grow as individuals, we need to be able to communicate what we believe to drive our personalities and goals. How could we possibly be well-rounded people if we can’t even voice our own opinions? Our lack of vociferousness is caused by robotic assignments and tests that follow a curriculum to get a credit and graduate, but never to let the students voice their opinions.  

These years of education battered us into a pattern that fills our brains with thoughts that are uninteresting. We are taught and asked about outstanding people, yet we are never asked about ourselves. When students are asked about themselves at a job interview or even by another adult it’s hard to explain and many don’t even know what to say. Being vulnerable and honest in class is seen as scary or frowned upon. But being dedicated and vulnerable is what pushes people to work harder and put their true self into something.  

Outside of our brains and assignments, there are even barriers to outward self-expression. Dress codes are highly restrictive and hinder a student’s true self. When out in public there are no enforced restrictions on what you can and can’t wear. There should be no reason for anyone to be afraid of wearing what they want. Having a board of adults who don’t know or understand you personally shouldn’t be determining your fate.  

Students should not be put in a box every day just so they can learn without growing. Scott Korb writes, “We need to value more the complete and complex lives of young people: where they come from, how they express themselves. They have already lived lives worthy of our attention and appreciation.” As students we are learning as time goes on, we are also no different from adults. Everyone is growing and changing daily. There shouldn’t be a certain time where we are expected to just know who we are, nor should there be a time where we can’t express who we are right now and be proud of it. There is no certified time for change or growth because it happens all the time. 

Students are powerful and smart driving forces just as adults are. Letting self-expression through can help us flourish. To enclose an entire group of youth, encloses their opportunities and lives. We should be able to freely feel our emotions and talk on touchy subjects because that helps us learn. Being vulnerable is not weak or stupid. Vulnerability is power, and schools should push for power.