I often tease my students that in writing for an English class, the writer can use language playfully — metaphor to create nuance and alliteration to draw images. History writing, I tell them, is intended to be as a dry as a bone: a recitation of the facts. Though now we know that history is an intertwined story of multiple perspectives where the voices of many should be heard, the debate continues over the form that voice should take. The notion of a page in a newspaper where students’ voices could be heard speaking with passion about their concerns, rather than picking international and national events about which they cared little, grew from my own conviction that history is storytelling and each of us has a story to tell.

Sophomores Speak Out is a forum for students to express their interests, concerns and reflections on the world and to see themselves as active participants in history. Now in its fourth year, I have been privileged to see my students become thoughtful writers, aware that they have a story to share with the world. In September of each year, students want to give me information culled from the media to which they have added a little reflection, but by December they hit their stride and become confident of their abilities and feelings on a wide range of topics.

The nightmare of every teacher working to unlock students’ authentic voices is the fact that every day on the Internet we, students included, can all find numerous essays, articles, news pieces on every topic under the sun. For our students born into the information explosion age and accustomed to rapid access, the reflective process of struggling with a piece of paper and a pen to express opinions and ideas thoughtfully acquitted can seem daunting, and even in a bizarre way inefficient. Plagiarism used to involve seeking sources, having to read books and search out information to copy; today that is no longer the case and colleges, universities and schools all over the world struggle to control the flood of information and immediate access offered by the Internet, instant messaging, tweeting and blogs. It is a struggle for all writers as we are all saturated with information, the source of which may no longer be clear to us.

In our last Sophomores Speak Out page for the Gazette, one of our young writers chose to submit a piece on female suicide bombers titled Women Who Kill, with only very minor alterations from a piece he had read on the Internet. He apologizes for that, and he has learned a very valuable lesson that perhaps could not have been so well learned in other circumstances. His next piece will be reflective and personal, and will attempt to convey his understanding of the conventions of good writing.

Elaine Weintraub teaches history at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.