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Schuylkill County 8th Grade Students Asked to Write Bizarre Essays for Newspaper in Education Week

newspaper in education week essay contest

newspaper in education week essay contest

We got a message in to the newsroom over the weekend from a concerned parent of an 8th grade student at a Schuylkill County school district.

Editing what was said because this is a family site, the parent basically asked, “Why the heck is the local newspaper asking my kid to write about this for an essay contest?”

Once we saw what was being asked of the student to write, we asked the same question, also in the unedited version.

Schuylkill County Students Asked to Write Bizarre Essays for Newspaper in Education Week

Now, if you don’t know (or don’t remember) what Newspaper in Education Week is, you’ll probably remember participating in it through the Design-An-Ad contest. That’s when thousands of students across Schuylkill County create their own hand-drawn ads for local businesses.

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The best of these ads have traditionally appeared in a supplement to the RepublicanHerald newspaper, even back when it was called the Pottsville Republican & Evening Herald, The Pottsville Republican, and The Evening Herald. You very likely drew your own ad for a business. Maybe you even won.

But apparently there’s more to Newspaper in Education Week and the Newspaper in Education program that’s run locally by what’s now known as RepublicanHerald. (For the record: We don’t know if the local paper actually had a hand in choosing the topic for the essay contest or if they’re getting guidance from the folks in charge of Newspaper in Education Week on the national level.)

Each grade level has its own extra activity. And for 8th graders this year, it’s an essay contest. The best essays will also appear later this year in that supplement.

So, what are the 8th graders going to be writing about this year? They’re actually working on it right now because the deadline for entries is fast approaching.

It’s their own death.

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Students are being asked if they’d look at a piece of paper that had the exact time they’d die.

Hey Kid, Do You Want to Know When You’re Going to Die?

Maybe we’re being a bit prudish by taking some offense, for lack of a better word, to kids being asked that question, like this one concerned parent was this weekend, but frankly, it’s a bit of an odd question to ask a kid.

It’s especially odd that a newspaper – even if indirectly through the NIE program – is asking kids this question.

But this is how it’s worded and the assignment that students participating in Newspaper in Education Week are working on right now:

“You are in a room with no distractions. The door is locked; the walls are white. There is one chair on which you sit. On the table in front of you is a piece of paper. You know on the reverse side of the paper is written the date you will eventually die. You are in the room for one hour only and can never return to it. Would you turn the paper over and read it? Choose specific details and reasons to support your topic sentence. Write, edit and revise carefully. You want to present your ideas clearly and observe the rules of grammar and spelling.”

It’s just hard to figure out why this is something that’s part of the Newspaper in Education program. Why not something about, say, the news? Or newspapers?

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Here are the activities for the other grade levels:

  • 7th grade: Essay contest – “Profile in Courage”
  • 6th grade: Argumentative essay contest on whether school should be held year-round
  • 5th grade: Persuasive essay contest on best Pennsylvania field trip
  • 4th grade: Essay contest – “A Person I Admire”
  • 3rd grade: Essay contest – “A Book Character I’d Like to Be”
  • 2nd grade: Draw your favorite book character, write briefly why you like that character
  • 1st grade: Draw yourself reading a book and then write what you like to read (i.e. “I like books about dinosaurs.”)
  • Kindergarten: Draw yourself reading a book in your favorite spot. Write at the bottom “(NAME) is a reader!”

Those are all perfectly sane ideas for essay contests and fun activities for younger kids. That essay question for the 8th graders though? Just sounds weirder compared to all the other grades.

And why make it due right around the end of the year? It’s been a lousy year for a lot of people, kids included. This just seems to put more of a damper on the end of it. Imagine if this was your last assignment for the year 2020.

These essays have to be between 300-450 words. The first-place winner gets a cool $30 for their effort. Second place gets $20 and third place gets $10. Don’t spend it all in one place, kids. grade8activity2021.doc


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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Geralynn matta

    December 22, 2020 at 10:59 am

    Reminds me of when an adult told us kids to go into a tunnel up the Shenandoah Heights. You had to Bless yourself then walk in. At the end when you looked on the ground you saw yourself laid out in the coffin- DEAD. A boy we knew went in an saw himself in the blue suit he presently owned and as young as he was. He did die within that year and was buried in that blue suit. This topic should not be put into children’s minds.

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