Students are taking to social media in droves to protest mandatory in-class presentations. Citing discrimination, they’re calling for alternatives to public speaking, especially for those individuals with anxiety.
Should public speaking be abolished from education?
According to a recent article in the Atlantic, over 90% of hiring managers say that oral communication is an essential skill in the business world. Educators feel that public speaking builds confidence, improves critical thinking, and teaches debating skills.
Traditionally, public speaking has been feared more than death. High school students are especially susceptible to presentation anxiety because it often takes place in front of their peers during a vulnerable time in their lives. A presentation that goes sideways could cause intense fear and anxiety.
Is this good or bad?
If public education’s main job is to prepare student’s for the world, then it would make perfect sense to continue to have kids practice public speaking throughout their schooling. Educational institutions are designed to be places of practice and learning that are sheltered from the harsh realities of the ‘real world’. If students can’t face their fears in this protected environment it's highly unlikely they’ll be able to manage a presentation in a business setting.
Safeyism (the idea that we’re over protecting our children) and anxiety are very real problems in education today. It’s unfortunate that they happen to be polar opposites. Perhaps a hybrid approach to public speaking is the most effective way to keep it in schools (having kids present in smaller groups first is an example).
In a world where populism is favoured over expertise, it would be a disaster to abandon our ability to converse using oral communication.