Editor’s Letter: Alex Slen

Editor-in-Chief Alex Slen questions what it means to be educated.



Image of Editor-in-Chief Alex Slen. Slen examines what it means to be educated.

In my first editor’s letter of the year, I wrote about what it means to be educated. I concluded that being educated is about being able to look through the metaphorical noise to find the truth. As a journalist, I have spent countless hours honing this skill. Now, as I am about to go off to college, I believe there is more to being educated than just being able to seek truth from misinformation.

The current education system is set up to prepare students for the outside world by teaching them math, history, social studies, and foreign languages. However, it seems that in the past few years, forces both inside and outside of schools have failed to do so. Last school year, more than 1,600 books were banned in over 5,000 schools nationwide, according to PEN America. So-called “safe spaces” have permeated college campuses and schools across the country. Nationally, ACT and SAT scores have dropped to record lows, while grade-point averages have remained at record highs. Something is clearly amiss in the world of education; we are not equipping students with the tools to succeed.

Education has emerged at the forefront of the culture wars in recent months. The lasting impact on students can best be summed up by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff in their book “The Coddling of the American Mind.” They outline three “untruths” that people tend to fall victim to, one of which is “what doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.”

In our hypersensitive education system, anything that could possibly offend someone is subject to banning or censorship. Potentially challenging books like “Huck Finn” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” have been quietly removed from school shelves, beliefs that go against the majority have been silenced, and the once great art of civic debate has been lost.

In our societal quest to make kids feel “safe,” we deny them the opportunity to grow as individuals. These attempts only send the message that safety is more important than learning. What we are seeing now across the country are students who are not equipped to handle disagreement, carry on meaningful debate, and embrace change and discomfort. My sincerest hope is that we, as a society, once again value the importance of being challenged and facing differing opinions; if we do, we may very well preserve American democracy for the next generation.

*Portions of this letter were adapted from Alex’s January 2023 op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I Want to Be Treated Like an Adult.”