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Should in-class presentations be required for those dealing with anxiety?

Should in-class presentations be required for those dealing with anxiety?

Should in-class presentations be required for those dealing with anxiety?
October 11
11:30 2018

Most of the population can agree on a mild discomfort with public speaking. According to the Chapman University Survey on American Fears from 2017, a fear of public speaking ranked No. 52, with 20 percent of the U.S. population reporting being afraid or “very afraid” of it. Interestingly enough, American public schools have pushed public speaking classes onto students for decades with a required speech-ingrained curriculum.

Our society holds public speaking to a high degree of importance, too. According to a survey by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, more than 90 percent of hiring managers indicated oral communication as “very important” for college graduates to possess as an intellectual and practical skill. The purpose of required speech classes is to get young students out of their comfort zones and force them to learn a skill they are expected to develop for their future careers.

Despite a large degree of American society accepting public speaking as a necessary evil in the school curriculum, many students on Twitter spoke out against forcing students with severe anxiety to present in class.

Students argued those with anxiety should be given the choice to opt out because of the effect it could have on mental health, although others disagreed by saying those with anxiety should face their fears in order to conquer them.

Advocates for an opt-out option argue a diagnosed anxiety disorder could be recognized as a learning disability, with the possibility of receiving lower grades due to poor performance of their presentations, concluding that the student is set up to fail. Some students with social anxiety claimed they suffered from symptoms of panic attacks, insomnia and a shaking feeling due to the stress of in-class presentations, followed by embarrassment and overwhelming despair.

Universities have prepared accommodations for physically and mentally disabled students in the past, as long as the student has the required paperwork. For example, a common accommodation for students who suffer from test-taking anxiety is being given more time to take tests. Alternatives to in-class presentations could be other options, such as private one-on-one presentations with the professor or written essays, which could suit the student better.

One person commented that admitting an inability to complete an assignment due to anxiety is “succumbing to the disease” and shouldn’t be “celebrated.” The same user tweeted this is equivalent to “running away” and allowing the illness to “get the better of you.”

While some agreed that tackling anxiety is a fear that should be faced, others disagreed. Though exposure therapy can be used as an efficient way to combat anxiety, individual experiences and behaviors cannot be ignored when understanding mental illness.

People get upset when standards are changed — we have a natural desire for everyone to be treated the same, but pretending typical nervousness while talking in front of a crowd is comparable to a diagnosed social anxiety disorder puts those with the mental illness at a disadvantage. The issue doesn’t lie with public speaking being a necessary skill students need to learn — it lies with the public’s discomfort with others being accommodated.

Ideally, if a student desires to enter a career field where mass oral communication is required, you would think the student would take it upon themselves to practice. Otherwise, forcing students to present publicly when a strong presentation skill isn’t required for their desired career seems irrelevant and detrimental to their learning experience.

Featured Illustration: Allison Shuckman

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Christina Palomo

Christina Palomo

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