Learning to speak up, and learning to be published

I spoke to a group of students recently on advocacy journalism. As future early childhood educators at Wheelock College-Singapore, the students will enter the workforce with the need and desire to articulate the methods and goals of their chosen profession.

We talked about the difference between “objective” news writing and opinion writing, which can range from longer commentary pieces to the letter to the editor, the blog post, or even the tweet. We discussed the importance of a good “hook” to engage the reader; the importance of structure and how to build an argument; the importance of self-expression and policy debate in an open society; the importance of disagreeing without being disagreeable; the importance of accuracy and of attribution; and the importance of anything we write passing the “So What?” test.

A newspaper traditionally expresses editorial board views in its editorials, and offers a place for the opinions of others opposite the editorial — hence the term “op-ed.” At the end of our session we broke into small groups to write opinion pieces on a story that had run that morning in the Singaporean newspaper, Today, about the value of unstructured play in a child’s skills development. The story focused on a view among many Singaporean parents that learning examinable skills is far more important than play, contrasting that view with the Finnish approach to early childhood education, which places a value on play and its interactive possibilities (or experiential learning, as it is cleverly called).

At the end of our session, I encouraged the students to submit their writings to the newspaper’s commentary page, and left them with instructions on how to submit an op-ed or a letter to the editor. I am delighted to report that two pieces were published, including this op-ed headlined Get serious about embracing play, by Jane Mayriel Singh and Nathania Tan Hui Yi, final year students of the Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Studies and Leadership program at Wheelock College-Singapore. A letter to the editor, by students Cheok Jia Hui Sophie Chantel and Nurshafain Bte Basir Ahamed, also was published, but a link is unavailable.

Congratulations to these aspiring early childhood educators and now, published writers.

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