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Lesson of the Day: ‘They Believe in Ambitious Women. But They Also See the Costs.’

Students in U.S. high schools can get free digital access to The New York Times until Sept. 1, 2021.

Featured Article: “They Believe in Ambitious Women. But They Also See the Costs.” Text by Claire Cain Miller and photographs by Ruth Fremson

“The last four years made a big, sobering impression on teenage girls,” Claire Cain Miller writes in the featured article. Donald J. Trump’s presidency, national protests for racial justice and the election of Vice President Kamala Harris have all influenced how girls look at politics — and their role in it — today.

In this lesson, you’ll read about the ways in which teenagers’ political attitudes and beliefs about women in leadership have shifted since 2016 and why. Then, we invite you to explore how your own perspectives have transformed and to reflect on your goals, hopes and dreams for the future.

The featured article includes interviews with and photographs of six young women: Sarah Hamilton, Georgia Wolfe, Daryn Hickok, Ana Shepherd, Jessica Griepenburg and Jordan Barrett.

Before reading the article, spend several minutes looking at each pair of photos and quotations — one from 2016 and one from 2021 — featuring the women. Then, choose one pair to analyze more closely and respond to the following questions:

  • How have this woman’s attitudes toward politics or women in leadership changed since she was in high school in 2016?

  • What events from the past four years do you think could have influenced this shift? How might her response also be shaped by her gender, racial or ethnic identity?

  • Do you relate to this woman’s beliefs in any way? If so, which words, lines or themes in her quotation resonate most with you, and why? If not, why do you think your beliefs might differ from hers?

Read the article, then answer the following questions:

1. Why do you think that the author begins with Ms. Hamilton’s story? What can you infer about the main idea of the article based on the first three paragraphs?

2. Media Literacy. The author writes that many teenage girls say “it’s important for leadership to be more inclusive than in the past. But they are also cleareyed about the sexism female leaders face, as are their male peers.” What data supports this claim?

3. The survey data shows that political attitudes among teenagers differed significantly by gender and race. Describe at least three of these key differences. Why might these contrasts be important to note?

4. What power do role models have to shape young people’s attitudes about women in leadership? Give at least two examples from the article to support your response.

5. Describe at least two ways the Trump presidency particularly affected girls’ interest in politics, and give an example of each. Do you relate to any of these young women’s experiences? How has the Trump era influenced your political beliefs and attitudes?

Option 1: How have your political beliefs and attitudes changed since 2016?

Create your own pair of photographs and quotations, modeled after those you saw in the article, that illustrate your perspective on politics both in 2016 and now. It can be focused on politics and civil engagement in general or women in leadership, specifically.

First, choose a photo of yourself from 2016 and write a sentence beneath it that summarizes what your political attitudes, beliefs and hopes were then. Then, choose or take a photo of yourself from 2021 and write a sentence that summarizes your point of view now. You can use a graphic design platform, like Canva, to put your images and quotations side by side.

Finally, write a short artist’s statement explaining your choices. Consider the following questions as you write your response:

  • How do these quotations show how your political attitudes have changed since 2016?

  • What events over the past four years have influenced this shift? What role does your gender, racial and ethnic identity play in how you see politics now?

  • Make a prediction: How do you see yourself being civically and politically engaged from now on, if at all? Do you want to run for office one day? Will you join protests, join community or school groups, or post about politics on social media? Would you like to study politics, or something related to it, in college? Will you continue following and discussing what happens in politics and government? Or have you become so disillusioned with the political atmosphere that you plan to disengage from it altogether? Why?

  • What hopes do you have for the future of politics? What would you like to see happen in our country over the next four years?

Option 2: Who are your female role models?

The article discusses the power role models can have on young people. Who are the women — either people you know personally or public figures — who inspire you? What have you learned from them? Have they encouraged you to take on leadership roles, become involved in your community or try to make an impact on the world?

If you don’t have any female role models, read about some inspiring women featured in The Times’s Women and Leadership spotlight. They include an electrician, a sky diver, entrepreneurs and climate change fighters.

Choose one female role model and write about the impression she has made on your life. Then, reflect on your own or discuss with your classmates the importance of having female mentors and leaders to look up to. Do your teachers do a good job of teaching you about important female figures? How could they do better?

About Lesson of the Day

Find all our Lessons of the Day in this column.
Teachers, watch our on-demand webinar to learn how to use this feature in your classroom.

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